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October 18, 2006

Deb Patterson


PETER IRWIN: It is time for Kansas State University. We would like to welcome Deb Patterson. Coach, if would you like to make an opening comments.
COACH PATTERSON: We are very excited about the opportunity this year to bring a returning team from an NIT national championship to the floor. We have added two young players in Ashley Sweat and Kari Kincaid into our program that will impact us relatively early in their careers. And I think that with one of the best point guards in the game here in the Big 12 in Shalee Lehning, our returning freshmen league player, Marlies Gipson, and the return of Shana Wheeler in the post, we have the potential to compete well and hard. And I am excited about that, and really the energy and enthusiasm that our young team is bringing to the floor.

Q. I asked Clair this earlier about you guys and the men's program. You guys have been front and center, center stage for a long time there now. Talk about Coach Huggins, your relationship with him and how they have really grabbed a lot of attention in the town.
COACH PATTERSON: There is just a huge level of excitement about basketball in general because of the addition of Bob Huggins to Kansas State and him assuming the leadership position there. I think it is all tremendous. The arena is almost sold out for the men's game. We feel very solid and secure in the following we have at Kansas State. I think when you bring someone in to your gym and into your arena that is one of the top ten winning coaches in men's basketball history in terms of active coaches, it is bound to generate a great deal of excitement.
And I think the more positive things that we bring to Manhattan and to that arena and to our fan base, the better it is for all of us.
I think Bob Huggins has given Kansas State national attention and exposure, just because of the quality of achievement that he has behind him so to me it is all a great positive, I hope that we'll continue to generate a great deal of enthusiasm.
I think the demographics sometimes are a little distinct. By and large, we are very excited just about people talking about basketball at Kansas State and as you know, we sold out our championship game for the WNIT. It is great to see that the men are close to selling out. A big, big change in their season tickets.
So for us, it is all good.

Q. Deb, how do you play without a true center and what's Wheeler's physical status right now?
COACH PATTERSON: I think in the first five days of practice, it looks like Shana is as strong and as aggressive as really I have ever seen her in the gym, and that's a great encourager for all of us. I think the time away and the time that she spent having to be really mentally and physically tough in rehab has elevated her level of intensity. And I think she sees the window of opportunity has closed in on her now that she didn't get that year back.
I feel as though early -- as we are making early evaluations that Shana can step into the five position for us and be a presence. I think we are going to see a higher level of offensive production from her than we have seen in the past as well because she's already showing us her shot-blocking ability and her athleticism.

Q. Coach, you guys only have ten players on your roster. Has that presented any problems practicing or made you have to change the way you do things at all?
COACH PATTERSON: It hasn't been an issue to us because of the positive of having male practice players. That's a big, big positive in the women's game, not only if you have 12 or 13 on your roster, but certainly in a situation like ours where there is ten because we can continue to operate and to compete well against quicker, stronger, bigger, faster, you name it.
I think when it might come into play some is when you have a player that gets nicked up and gets injured and maybe your intention was to go five-on-five and now you are five and four and you have to throw a guy in.
By and large, as long as we are healthy, I think there is plenty of ways for us to compensate or to adapt to having ten.
We have seen great programs like Duke, for instance, that have competed at the Final 4 and Elite 8 level with as many as nine on their roster. I think it is all in the approach you take. Certainly having the male practice players is very, very advantageous.

Q. Deb, Shalee Lehning had such a great freshmen year. Can you talk about the aspects of her game she has been able to improve for this season?
COACH PATTERSON: I think what Shalee brought to the floor for us was great floor leadership, kind of command of everything it is we wanted to do and just as a great play maker.
Unfortunately, she was injured most of the year and basically from March through September, she was literally out of commission. So she has not really had an opportunity to expand upon or to work on her individual skills and her individual game. So I think that's a summer away from her in terms of just growing individually.
I think what carries her through is her competitiveness, her absolute full-out intensity or intelligence that she brings to the floor as a basketball player.
I think we will see her improve a great deal with respect to her understanding defensively. That's certainly an area where I think we'll see growth in her just because of the transfer that you make from your freshman to sophomore year. I think we will see that in Marlies and Zanotti.
We know the area of game we want to grow the most for Shalee Lehning is her ability to be an effective scorer from the perimeter in all situations. So I think that will evolve through the season. But I think it will evolve only through a lot of hard work during the season because she didn't have that opportunity in the off season because of injury.

Q. Deb, can you talk about what Clair Coggins means to this team as a veteran and what you expect from her.
COACH PATTERSON: I am so excited right now about the kind of season that I see ahead for Claire Coggins. I think the last month or month and a half of her junior year, she played absolutely astounding basketball. She was at a very high caliber as a rebounder, as a defender, and as a scorer, and reached a level of consistency that I think the great ones attain.
As she heads into her senior year, we will look to her for stability out there on the basketball floor, consistency. And those are elements that I think had developed in her game over time, but that she really brought to the table that last month and a half. And I'm excited as we started these first five days of practice to see that in the gym every day now from her as a senior. I think she is far and away one of the most talented guards in this league. I think before it is all said and done, she will be a first-team all-Big 12 player. I think she has the potential and the capabilities if she continues to work hard of playing at the next level and being the next Kansas State player to do that.
I am very excited about her versatility, the strength and I think the maturity and consistency that I am seeing from her right now. I really think she will be a premiere player all season long.

Q. How do you assess Kimberly's play and where do you see her improving?
COACH PATTERSON: It is interesting because Kimberly is sort of the quiet contributor who is -- last year for our basketball team, who about January began to emerge very, very consistent in her scoring. By the time the season ended for us, she was by far our best perimeter defender. When we had to make stops on individual talent, we assigned Kimberly Dietz to that player and had great success.
Offensively, she is very, very adept at both shooting the three and at getting to the rim. In fact, I think she -- it is as toss-up between she and Claire Coggins which brings the greater ability to both of those roles on the floor right now.
Who is going to be the better three-point shooter tonight? Who is going to be the better penetrator? I think they are a great one-two back court combination. Kimberly brings great strength. Last year I thought as the season transpired she gained a greater level of confidence playing both the point position and the two for us when we needed it.
So as we head into this season, I see Kimberly being a very critical element, a very solid starter, someone that comes off of WNIT tournament scoring 20 points a game. She is a high-caliber, high-level talent and she has gained a great deal of confidence and a good feel for how we like to play now.
So I expect great things from her and the thing that's also true of Kimberly is like most great shooters, if she is struggling a little bit early in the game, she won't necessarily pull back and lose her confidence and stop shooting. So we are going to need that kind of production from her, especially if we are not getting it out of the point position and I think she is more than capable. So I am very excited about where she is at right now.
PETER IRWIN: Coach, I think they are ready for lunch. Thank you very much. Wish you the best of the luck for the season.

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