Sophomore Chantay Caron likes to downplay it, but today’s Sunflower Showdown with rival Kansas is just a little more personal to the forward than others on the Kansas State women’s basketball team.
Caron hails from Lawrence.
Yes, Caron was a star at Free State High School and was surrounded by the Crimson and Blue. Surprisingly, though, those colors weren’t found in Caron’s room growing up.
She was a Wildcat fan in Jayhawk country.
“No,” Caron quickly said when asked about any early childhood KU leanings Thursday afternoon. “No.
“I would get stuff from my dad, because he was a big KU fan, but he finally gave in. I really liked K-State.”
Caron, who is averaging nearly three points per game in 14 minutes of action, said she had an association with K-State through past players.
“I knew Shana Wheeler,” she said. “She was a babysitter of mine, and I had Marlies Gipson on a traveling team I was with, but it was the older team, and then I got to watch them move on to K-State.”
As a player at Free State, Caron earned many honors including a first-team selection to the 2010 All-Sunflower League squad and was the 2010 All-Area Player of the Year. She also set the school record for career points (827) and field goals made (291). She was also a McDonald’s All-American nominee in 2010.
Many would assume with that kind of resume, Caron was highly sought by the university that was in her backyard. That wasn’t the case, though.
“No, K-State was way ahead,” Caron said. “(KU) had a little bit of interest, but it was pretty much K-State all the way. I was ready to come to Manhattan. I really didn’t think about going to KU — I just wanted to get away.”
Caron said that last season, as a freshman, she more than ready to play the hometown team that didn’t show the same interest as the Cats. But now, though, her grudge has faded.
“My freshman year, I could not wait to play KU,” she said. “I was so excited to beat them and point at the wall and say look where I’m at.
“But now, it’s like every other game. The nerves are just gone. I grew up a little bit.”
With both teams jockeying through the middle of the Big 12 standings — KU and K-State are currently tied for fourth at 6-5 — Caron acknowledged today’s game has some added weight to it, considering March is just around the corner.
“It really is more of a fight this time,” she said. “We’re both right in the middle (of the standings) and we both really need this game. They bring a lot to the table. I feel like our teams are pretty equal. In the long run, it will just come out to who plays hard and who fights hard.”