KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Kansas State women's basketball coach Deb Patterson sat next to the Sprint Center's hardwood floor at her Big 12 media days news conference Wednesday and smiled while answering all sorts of questions about how difficult it will be to no longer have Shalee Lehning or Marlies Gipson on her roster.
She thought very highly of both players and could go on talking about them for hours. At one point, she even compared Lehning to Tim Tebow.
But amid all that talk about K-State's past, she slipped in an eye-opening comparison from the present. She believes sophomores Branshea Brown and Jalana Childs are "the best post players we've had since Nicole Ohlde."
That's high praise considering Ohlde was a two-time All-American at K-State before moving on to the WNBA.
Are they at Ohlde's level yet? Patterson said no, but believes that will change with time.
"They have the opportunity to be proficient scorers in this league," she said. "Two years from now, watch out."
Patterson likes Brown's athleticism more than anything and Childs has shown a real knack for scoring in practice.
Seeing that kind of potential on her 10-player squad, Patterson is looking forward to the season even though the Wildcats are picked to finish eighth in the league's preseason polls.
"Every day of practice has been fun," she said. "We don't know where we'll ultimately end up, but each day the goal is to just keep growing and get better."
Helping in that process will be seniors Kari Kincaid of Andover Central and Ashley Sweat of McPherson. Patterson said Kincaid is already providing considerable leadership on and off the court, and Sweat is a returning all-conference forward.
Both will be counted on to set an example for the aforementioned sophomores, and freshmen guards Brittany Chambers, Mariah White and Taelor Karr.
Kincaid said her message to the rest of the team is simple: "Buy in."
"We need to redefine our team," she said. "We lost everything last year. The key now is to buy in to what coach is saying. That alone can get us a lot farther than people think."
It will be an uphill climb, though. Outside of Sweat and Kincaid, the Wildcats don't have any proven scorers. Patterson believes K-State's point-guard duties will be handled by committee.
With so little experience, growing pains will be expected.
"It's going to be a day-by-day experience for us," Patterson said. "It's about chipping away game by game.... I'll tell you this: I have a great deal of confidence in my players."