Leti Romero says she has played her last game at Kansas State.
The point guard is seeking a transfer following a freshman season in which she earned second-team All-Big 12 honors for the Wildcats.
Romero’s decision to leave K-State is simple.
“Everybody knows that I came here because of the coaches, what I knew I was going have in the coaches,” Romero told The Mercury Monday night. “I knew I was going to be fine with them because of the relationship I had with them. I came because of them.”
Head coach Deb Patterson was fired on March 9 after 18 seasons at K-State, following the Wildcats’ season-ending overtime loss to rival Kansas in the Big 12 tournament. Patterson’s dismissal also meant the loss of assistant coach Shalee Lehning, who played a vital role in recruiting Romero from Las Palmas, Spain, to Manhattan a year ago.
“I think I have the right to transfer, if (K-State) has the right to change what I came for — the coaching staff,” said Romero, who led the Wildcats in points (14.2), rebounds (5.8) and assists (5.0) per game last season.
Romero’s transfer, however, won’t be easy. According to Romero, K-State rejected her initial request for a release, which would have allowed her to transfer to another school and sit out a year while under a new scholarship.
It is K-State’s athletic department policy to not grant release requests, “except for the most compelling of circumstances which place an undue burden on the student athlete.”
Now Romero must go before an appeals committee on Wednesday afternoon to make her case for a release.
In most cases, if a school grants a release, it would block the athlete from transferring to certain schools, like conference opponents or rival programs. Sometimes that can be dozens of schools and is often left up to the current head coach and/or the athletic department.
Without a release, Romero would have to transfer, forfeit any scholarship opportunity for a year, pay her own way and sit out next season — something she said is not an option for her family that’s still in Spain.
“They support me,” Romero said of her family. “I talked to them as soon as I was thinking about leaving. I told them I wasn’t happy here and they were the first who knew what I was thinking… They are just far, working, and would have come here, but it’s not easy for them to come from so far.”
Romero initially decided she would stay at K-State at least long enough to give new head coach Jeff Mittie a shot. But it became clear early on, she said, that it was not the right fit and that she needed to move on.
“I didn’t plan on leaving right after the coaches were fired,” said Romero, who was a four-time Big 12 Freshman Player of the Week this season. “I stayed and I tried and I met the coach and I just didn’t feel comfortable. There were many changes, for me especially.
“I practiced for a week with the new coach and I didn’t feel comfortable, didn’t feel happy anymore.”
Romero came to K-State after averaging more than 15 points a game in what would have been her senior year playing as an amateur for Gran Canaria — which is part of a professional Spanish league that features many current WNBA players and former college standouts, including Maya Moore, Danielle Adams, Courtney Paris and former Wildcat Brittany Chambers. Holding more than 60 division-I offers, Romero chose K-State after also taking visits to Florida State and Virginia Tech.
It was all part of a challenging transition to America this past season for Romero, who had to adjust to a different style of basketball, significant cultural changes and typical life as a freshman — all while being thousands of miles from home.
That’s why Romero said the bond she had with the former staff was so important and why she picked K-State to begin with — a comfort level she didn’t experience anywhere else.
“I came for them, I believed in them and they believed in me too,” Romero said. “Right now, I feel like I am by myself.”
Due to student-athlete privacy laws, the athletic department cannot comment on the matter.