Wichita State Shockers

College basketball preview: WSU's Lankster out to complete her job

It's not just the tenacity that she brings to the defensive end. It's not just her willingness to learn. And it's not just her capacity to lead.

Everything about the way Haleigh Lankster approaches the game of basketball is what Wichita State women's coach Jody Adams wants her players to be.

It's no coincidence that Lankster is also the first four-year senior to pass through Adams' system, also in its fourth year. Now Lankster is the face of the program.

Wichita State opens its season on Nov. 12 at home against Northwestern State.

"She gets it," Adams said. "Haleigh has a good heart. She's a pleaser. She always wants to do what's right. Most importantly, she understands that defense has been the key to what has brought us from the bottom to where we are today."

When Lankster arrived as a gangly freshman in 2008-09, the Shockers were an afterthought in the Valley. Now Adams' squad is commanding respect throughout the league.

WSU was predicted to finish third in the league, only the second time since the polls originated in 1983 that it has been picked among the top three. Now Lankster, now a lean-but-cut 5-foot-9 guard, is leading the way, being named to the preseason All-Valley team.

"We've come a long ways," said Lankster, laughing on the reflection. "From always being picked last to now being third. That's respect they have for us now."

That respect means a lot to this program, which has taken a completely different identity under Adams than her predecessor, Jane Albright.

While Albright kept a cheery outlook on things at all times, Adams has instilled a no-nonsense type attitude. And now with a roster full of hand-picked players, the results are showing.

"What makes Jody a great coach is that she never settles," Lankster said. "Once she sees something in a certain player, she's going to continue to set expectations. Once you reach that goal, then she's going to keep raising it higher. She never settles; she never stops."

Lankster is a perfect example.

When she arrived at WSU, Lankster was a raw athlete. There was talent, but her potential was untapped. As each year has gone by, and Lankster receives another year under Adams' tutelage, her game has become more and more refined.

Adams emphasizes how impressive Lankster's improvement has been, considering she has never had a four-year senior in Adams' system to look up to.

"There's something about her that's instinctive," Adams said. "It's a switch. You can tell when she's locked in, when she's going to cause havoc and she's going to become unstoppable."

Lankster's slashes through the lane are feared, but not as much as her defense.

"She has great anticipation," teammate Jessica Diamond said. "She's very long. She's great on the ball. She applies great pressure. She gets up in passing lanes and that's usually how she gets her steals."

Lankster (13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 steals) plays with a chip on her shoulder, an attribute Adams loves. For the past three seasons, Adams has been grooming her for this season. To become not only the team's best player, but the team's best leader.

"Me and Jody's relationship has grown a lot," Lankster said. "We talk a lot more now. She's been teaching me leadership skills since my sophomore year. But now it's not even about basketball-related stuff anymore. We just talk and she teaches me a lot. I'm a lot more comfortable in that role as a leader now. I want to lead more now."

What Lankster also wants to do is complete the transformation of the program into a contender. Four years ago, Adams laid out the plan and now it will be up to her four-year senior to see it through.

"I think the respect is starting to be there, but I don't think it's established yet," Lankster said. "I think it definitely will after this season."

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