Shalee Lehning describes her basketball journey as a fairy tale. How else to characterize consistently being in the right place at the right time with the right people?
The fairy tale began in Sublette, where she won back-to-back Class 2A titles, going 52-0 from 2003 to 2005.
“I look back now, do I remember the scores? No. Do I remember the accomplishments? Hardly,” she said. “I remember the community of Sublette filling Bramlage (Coliseum), shutting down stores and being there for the state championship games.
“It was such a special thing to have this community, this support and to do it with my best friends and to have that success, it’s just so rare and special.”
The ride didn’t end there, as Lehning starred at Kansas State.
She was named All-Big 12 in 2008 and 2009 and held Kansas State’s top four marks in single-season assists, as well as career assists with 800. She ranked in the top 10 in career steals, career rebounds, career double-doubles, career games played and career games started.
“I was a small-town Kansas girl, making it, going to Kansas State,” she said. “I grew up a Kansas State fan and I wanted to play there from an early age. Even from before I could fathom that I would be good enough, that was the dream.
“To be a part of it, and have that success that we had and experience the Kansas State community. I loved the family feel.… It really was something I’ll always cherish.”
The WNBA’s Atlanta Dream drafted her 25th overall in 2009, and she played three seasons, averaging 3.8 assists.
“It was just the right fit. I was so blessed to go to a team where they were looking for a point guard, to get the playing time on two teams that went to the WNBA championship,” Lehning said. “… I remember being a girl watching the WNBA championship on TV and I’m in the game now.
“All my dreams coming true and all of it paying off.”
Her WNBA career ended after an anterior cruciate ligament injury and resulting surgical complications. She was an assistant coach at Kansas State for five years and an assistant at Northern Colorado in 2014-15.
Lehning, 28, is now in the middle of year off from basketball, immersed in a master’s program — which is condensed from two years to one — in theological studies.
“Basically I’m trying to take a year off and wanted to grown in my knowledge of the Bible and be open to see where it takes me,” she said. “I love coaching, and it’s a passion of mine. There’s a good chance at the end of the year that I’ll get back into it.”