Tasha Dickey may have spent four years at the University of Arizona, but there’s no doubt her heart is in Manhattan as a one-year member of the Kansas State women’s basketball team.
Dickey, who transferred to K-State in the summer after graduating from Arizona, has started every game for the Wildcats this season and wasted little time making her presence felt the minute she stepped onto the court.
The 5-foot-10 senior guard, who averaged just 3.7 points per game for Arizona, has been a key piece to the Cats’ success this season, averaging 10 points and four rebounds per game this season with 48 steals.
But getting to this point wasn’t an easy journey for Dickey, whose father Charlie is the offensive line coach for the K-State football team.
At Arizona, Dickey was primarily used as a reserve — making 21 starts in three seasons. She was far from her family, who at the time called Utah home, where her father was coaching football.
Sure, Arizona had its positives. But nonetheless, Dickey was ready for a change after graduating — still with a year of eligibility.
“There were moments when I was happy there,” Dickey said. “But for me, basketball is my life, and when basketball isn’t going well, it’s like nothing is going well.”
Enter K-State and coach Deb Patterson, who gave Dickey an opportunity to make that needed change a reality — in Kansas — and back with her family by her side.
“Coach Patterson didn’t know anything about me, didn’t know who I am, so she really went out on a limb and I’m thankful for the chance to be here,” said Dickey, who has another year of graduate school at K-State.
K-State junior guard Brittany Chambers recalled a hesitant, almost unsure Dickey when they first met, something she said changed as the season moved along.
“You could tell when we first got into the gym with her that she was really hesitant and she had doubts if this is really what she wanted,” Chambers said. “But as the season has gone on, it’s just amazing to see her growth. It’s one of those things where if you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re going to get better.”
Now, though, Dickey has regained that lost confidence and become a bit of an X-factor for the Wildcats, who appear to be on the verge of going to their second straight NCAA tournament.
Dickey, who scored a season-high 20 points against Dartmouth in the season opener on Nov. 12, brings an athleticism this team hasn’t had in a while, an ability to get into the passing lanes and intercept passes that would truly make her father proud. Chambers and Jalana Childs may lead the Wildcats in scoring, but when Dickey also reaches double figures, the Wildcats are 6-2 this season.
“It’s taken a lot of pressure off of me and Jalana because teams are showing so much attention to us, that it gives Tasha open shots,” Chambers said. “And when she’s making those shots, it’s hard to guard, having three people who can shoot and score.”
Patterson knew the first time she saw Dickey that there was something special there.
“The first time we got into the gym, I felt unequivocally, she was the best athlete in the gym,” Patterson said earlier this season. “Right away, it just jumped off the charts to me that she has another speed, another quickness and good elevation.”
And to think Dickey wasn’t even sure how much playing time she would get. The idea that she would become a starter right away and remain one the entire season never entered her mind.
That’s just one part of what Dickey said has made this a “dream season.” Though she’s a senior by class, Dickey is playing with the enthusiasm and wide-eyed approach often seen in freshmen experiencing the college game for the first time. She’s having fun again.
“If I could go back, this would be my dream college experience,” she said. “It has truly been a blessing. Words cannot even express how grateful I am to even have this opportunity to step on the court everyday.
“When I look back over the last four years of my life, I was full of regrets. I was going to leave my college career feeling ashamed of what I accomplished. And now, to have this opportunity and be able to hold my head high has meant so much to me.”
Dickey’s time at Arizona wasn’t a lost cause, though, she said. Without that experience, Dickey said she wouldn’t appreciate what she’s experienced at K-State as much.
“I look at Arizona as a test, so I could appreciate the time I’ve had here,” she said. “It was the first time I was away from my family and it’s the first time you make some big decisions, and some of mine weren’t the best.
“It was a learning experience and I believe that if I didn’t go to Arizona, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the opportunity and the time I have now.”
Perhaps Chambers said it best, that when Dickey is on the court now, “you can see the love for basketball coming back to her.”
“It’s hard for us to see that person that she says she was at Arizona because she’s not that person at all here,” Chambers added. “She had a rough time there and there were a lot of ups and downs, but if I had just met her today, I would never guess that in a million years. She’s constantly smiling and constantly happy, with a great personality.”
Making Dickey’s experience in Manhattan all the more gratifying is that her family is with her again. Before transferring to K-State, it had been four years since the entire family was able to watch her play basketball.
Now, she’s living with them.
“It’s awesome to be able to look up at them and give them the head nod when they call my name,” she said. “It’s been great to have my dad there too. He’s usually recruiting, but he’s been to literally all of my home games. It really has been the greatest experience in my life, my journey here at K-State.”
But that journey is far from over. The Wildcats play at Missouri on Saturday at noon and then at Iowa State on Wednesday before closing the regular season at home against Texas Tech on March 3. After that, it’s off to Kansas City for the Big 12 tournament and then an expected NCAA tournament bid, something Dickey never experienced at Arizona.
“That’s been my dream, to play in the NCAA tournament,” she said. “I’m going to love it. I’ll take tons of pictures and cherish every moment of it. To be able to hopefully go my senior year, my final year, with everything I’ve already experienced this year, would be a dream come true.”