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Caron fights through pain to help Cats

By Joshua Kinder

The Kansas State women’s basketball team has lost three in a row and the schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Wildcats get set to begin a two-game road trip this weekend at Oklahoma.

Staff photo by Sarah Midgorden
(Kansas State senior forward Chantay Caron looks for a shot against Oklahoma State on Wednesday night at Bramlage Coliseum).

Despite the Wildcats’ early struggles, senior forward Chantay Caron believes the young team can turn the tide this season. At least she hopes the Wildcats can turn things around. After all, with the sun beginning to set on Caron’s career, she knows time is running out.

The Lawrence native has experienced a lot in four years at K-State — two trips to the NCAA tournament and then an adversity-packed season a year ago that had the Wildcats advance to the WNIT semifinals.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs here,” Caron said this week. “Hopefully, we can get some wins and finish the right way. I don’t want this to end bad.”

Caron was a key piece to the little success K-State had a year ago. Without the undersized 5-foot-11 post manning the inside, there’s no way the Wildcats (6-8, 0-3 Big 12) would have made it as far as they did with only seven healthy bodies down the stretch. She was it — the lone post still standing at the end of the season, but only barely.

Battered and bruised by going up against the biggest of bigs in the Big 12, Caron helped the Wildcats overcome the greatest odds and finish the season with a 19-18 overall record.

If K-State can overcome last season’s struggles, she knows this team can do the same this season.

“Even last year, we had seven people and two of them didn’t get to play that much,” said Caron, who averaged career highs a year ago with 6.7 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. “We really had to push ourselves and we started to win games and got into the NIT. That’s got to happen here, too.”

“I think we can turn it around. If we can just play two halves — we either get a good first half or a good second half, but we have to learn how to put two halves together. That’s the only way we’re going to win. We can do it, but it’s going to take some of the young ones to step up.”

The young players will be needed down the stretch for the Wildcats to make it back to the postseason, especially the posts, who have all been spotty and inconsistent so far for K-State, which plays in Norman, Okla., at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

“We’re in the hardest league in the country,” Caron said. “You have to be good every time you step onto the floor.”

Caron is expected to start on Saturday — her second time this week — but it will only be her third start of the season because of nagging injuries and a bout with illness that forced her to miss three games last month. There’s not much gas left in her tank these days, only participating in certain drills at practice and using her minutes wisely in games. Caron, who has scored in every game she’s played this season, had a season-high nine points twice — against Grambling State and Hampton.

“My knees are just ready to be done,” said Caron, who is considering knee surgery following the season. “They’re sore from the cutting and pounding on them because I’ve done it for so long. In practice, I know I have to pick my moments.”

Caron, who is averaging 5.9 points in only 13 minutes a game this season, thinks the rigors of last season might have taken a toll on her body.

“That might have been it, getting beat up all the time down low — the only post left — but that’s what had to happen with the number of players we had,” said Caron, an elementary education major, who will student-teach next year.

But that’s the way it’s always been for Caron — team first.

“Chantay has had a lot of different roles in her four years,” K-State assistant coach Shalee Lehning said. “She’s been the consummate K-State player, wanted to do what’s best for the team and has been willing to show up everyday and go hard.

“It’s always been about team to her. When we required her to guard 6-foot-5 last season, she did it. And this year, her role has changed a little bit, and she’s embraced that. We appreciate her contributions, her positive attitude and wanting to do her best for this program.”

If anyone understands Caron’s limitations, it’s Lehning, who rarely practiced as a senior point guard at K-State in an attempt to save her body for gameday.

“Coach Patterson has done a great job with Chantay, managing her body,” Lehning said. “She’s had a lot of nagging injuries throughout her career and her knees have always given her problems. We’ve had to use her wisely… She’s game-ready when we need her.

“Every kid is a little bit different and she’s one of those where her body has gotten in the way of her being able to play. But she’s handled it well and stayed tough through it.”

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