Jeff Mittie has a vision for the Kansas State women’s basketball team in which the Wildcats are running up and down the court at a breakneck pace, shooting quickly into possessions and wearing down opponents with their scoring prowess.
He would like to see K-State take its first step toward emulating that playing style this season. Now that he is in his third year as coach and coming off a trip to the NCAA Tournament, Mittie thinks he has the makings of a roster that can play fast.
But he stops short of promising a complete change of pace.
Why? Well, because that would abandon what worked for K-State last season.
“We are not going to be so dumb that Breanna Lewis doesn’t get the ball 25 times,” Mittie said. “I don’t give a crap how fast we play, we are throwing that thing to Breanna Lewis and we are going to keep throwing it in there. Let’s make that clear. That is not going to change.”
No matter how fast or slow K-State plays, Lewis will once again be the team’s focal point. The 6-foot-5 senior center led K-State with 16.7 points and 7.5 rebounds last year and was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team this year.
It seems as though the Wildcats will go as far as she can take them.
“Coach said that last year, too, so it’s not overwhelming,” Lewis said. “Everybody wants the ball, so, in that sense, it is great. If I get the ball and I am open, then I will look to score. If I get the ball and I’m not open, I will look to get the ball to my teammates.
“Me getting the ball opens up a lot of options for them, so I just want to be aggressive and open up the floor for the entire team.”
Lewis was successful in that area last season, guiding K-State to a 19-13 record, which featured a victory in the NCAA Tournament.
Her supporting cast, which includes talented guard Kindred Wesemann, will be better this season. But Lewis should be improved, too.
“She’s a great leader,” Wesemann said. “She has become more vocal than she was when she first got here. That makes a big difference. She talks all the time, especially on defense. She is the center of our defense and she makes us all better. Add that on to her natural abilities, and I’m really excited to see what she can do this year.”
Lewis’ main weakness last season was at the free-throw line, where she made 73 of 154 attempts (47.4 percent). There were times when it seemed like opposing teams were better off fouling her than defending her.
If she can raise her shooting percentage from the free-throw line, that alone could considerably boost her scoring.
“That’s my main goal,” Lewis said. “It’s the No. 1 priority. I have spent hours working on free throws. I understand how important they are.”
Mittie hopes Lewis attempts 200 free throws this season, even if it slows down K-State’s pace of play.
That’s how important Lewis could be to the Wildcats.
“I know my teammates really need me and need me to perform at a high level,” Lewis said. “They are there to help me along the way. The confidence they have in me and the confidence my coach has in me gives me a lot of confidence. They are all encouraging me to do as much as I can this season.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett