The first letter Michelle Price received in high school expressing interest in her as a basketball player was from Texas A&M.
The Kingwood (Texas) High product went to all of the Aggies’ elite camps and in the land of Longhorns, choose to wear the maroon of A&M.
But those dreams never materialized. Price found her fit on the Wichita State women’s basketball team, which discovered along with a couple hundred Shocker fans in the Champions Club at Koch Arena on Monday night it will be playing Texas A&M in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“Of all the teams” Price said with a laugh. “It’s going to be really fun. I know a few girls on their team, so it’s going to be like going back home to one big reunion.”
The Shockers received the No. 14 seed in the Norfolk Region and will play the third-seeded Aggies in College Station at 3:05 on Saturday afternoon. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. It’s the first time the Shockers have played in the NCAA Tournament.
“We love Texas,” WSU head coach Jody Adams said. “We’e been able to recruit some great kids from there and we plan to take them back home and do something we’ve never done before.”
Along with Price, seniors Jessica Diamond and Chynna Turner, both from Houston, have familiarity with much of A&M’s roster.
Most of all with A&M junior Kelsey Bone, a Texas high school legend who is on the shortlist of candidates for the Wooden Award this season.
“My high school team actually beat hers to go to the state championship my senior year,” Diamond said.
Turner and Diamond said there is no bad blood between them and A&M, which passed over both players in recruiting. But they’re both using it as a platform to showcase themselves.
“We’re going to show them what they missed out on,” Turner said.
Historically, the odds are not in Wichita State’s favor.
No Missouri Valley team has won in the NCAA Tournament since Drake’s Sweet 16 run in 2002, but that’s mostly because the average seeding of the MVC champion has been a 14 seed since then and upsets are not as common in the women’s tournament as the men’s.
“I believe our defense is going to be tough for anybody,” Diamond said. “That’s what we pride ourselves in and that’s what we’re going to bring, our Shocker defense. We’re going to go in there and see if they can handle our pressure.”
But no one wearing black and yellow was concerned about that on Monday night.
It was a time of celebration for a program that had never reached such heights.
Fan after fan poured in to shake Adams’ hand and tell her how proud her team had made the fans, the university and the community.
Scouting and worrying how to defend one of the nation’s best players could wait until later.
Monday was about soaking in the experience of winning the program’s first conference championship, conference tournament and NCAA berth.
“I still feel like I’m dreaming,” Turner said. “I haven’t come down from cloud nine yet.”
Kansas State earned a WNIT bid.