Chantay Caron is the only returning junior on Kansas State’s women’s basketball team, and with the Wildcats having one of the youngest and shortest rosters in the Big 12 this season, Caron has some big shoes to fill.
The vertically-challenged Wildcats will turn to Caron to help fill the void left by Jalana Childs and Branshea Brown.
Caron, at 5-feet-11, isn’t a typical forward, but she’s now one of the biggest K-State has to help secure the inside.
Whatever Caron might lack in size, she hopes to make up for it in her strength.
“You’ve got to be strong,” the Lawrence native said last week. “So, I’m in the weight room everyday, getting better, getting bigger. I’m going to use my power to its ability.”
Caron averaged 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds a game last season for the Wildcats, who made it to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. She played in all 34 games off the bench, scoring a season-high nine points against North Dakota State.
“Chantay’s got a great body,” K-State women’s basketball head coach Deb Patterson said. “She’s got the potential to be extremely physical and I think one of the areas in which I hope she will make an impact this year is to grow offensively, be a finisher.”
Calling her a, “little, mini Jalana,” in respect to the expectations Patterson has for Caron this season, the longtime coach said the forward has worked hard to improve her scoring.
With a smaller team, the Wildcats are expected to be quicker with all five players on the court capable of shooting the 3 — including Caron.
“She’s extended her range,” Patterson explained. “She can shoot the 3 now, which I think will help us and it’s going to be a need because we are so small. It’s going to open the floor up a lot when she’s at point-blank range, and we need that.”
Childs, who trained alongside Caron the past two years and is still in Manhattan finishing her degree, said she’s seen a lot of growth in Caron during some workouts with her old teammates.
“I can see that Chantay’s stepped up vocally as a leader making sure things are done correctly when it comes to younger players,” Childs said. “When you’re young, you get yelled at a lot, but I’ve noticed that the coaches don’t really get on her as much, and I think that’s just because she’s stepped up, done the right things. ”
Caron said she sees the holes that opened up with the departure of last year’s seniors — especially Childs and Brown — but she’s ready to do what she needs to do to help this team.
“I think it’s going to be hard,” she said. “But our offense is going to be really good this year. It’s a whole new team, it’s a whole new story.”
Some of Caron’s bigger leadership role also involves helping some of the younger players on the roster adjust to the rigors of Big 12 play.
“We have our seniors, and they’re great leaders,” Caron said about guards Brittany Chambers and Mariah White, “but with our sophomores and our freshmen, I’ll be playing with them for the next two years. So, I’m just trying to help them as much as I can.”