Texada has come a long way for Cats

By Joshua Kinder

There was a point last season when Haley Texada’s future at Kansas State seemed uncertain.

She was just a freshman and going through struggles typical in nature for someone new to college and new to a basketball program.

But for Texada, there was more. Practice was a struggle, let alone seeing significant minutes in games. School wasn’t easy. Everything was a struggle and it wore on her and the basketball program — so much so that when the Wildcats traveled to the NCAA tournament in Connecticut, Texada wasn’t allowed to be a part of it.

“It broke her heart and began a period in her life of very significant self-reflection, in regards to her decision-making, relative to what kind of person, student and athlete she wanted to commit to,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said Thursday.

Fast-forward a year and Texada isn’t just back with the program, but quickly becoming a go-to player for the Wildcats, who host West Virginia on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Texada, at just 5-feet-7, is living up to the potential the K-State coaching staff saw in the pint-sized guard when it recruited her out of Frisco, Texas. Twice last week, Texada reached career highs in scoring — starting with 21 points scored at Kansas and then 22 points in the Wildcats’ win over TCU last Saturday.

“We felt she would be very talented and a very dynamic player,” Patterson said. “Now, over the course of two Big 12 games when you post over 20 points, you’re playing extraordinary basketball… But her commitment is now matching the level of the character we believed we saw when we recruited her.

“She is hard to guard off the dribble, has a short jump shot and she can shoot the 3 on the offensive end. Defensively, she does a very nice job most possessions being a quality on-ball defender.”

The turning point, Patterson said, was last spring during the NCAA tournament when Texada had to watch her team advance to the second round from the comfort of her own home.

Texada, who is averaging 12.1 points and 2.9 rebounds a game, has been key to K-State’s early success this season, alongside senior guard Brittany Chambers in the backcourt.

The transformation from someone who played in just 14 games a year ago and averaged just 1.3 points to a player the Wildcats can rely on night-in and night-out, is nothing short of amazing, Patterson said.

“She’s opposite of who she was on the floor as a player and who she was off the floor as a person a year ago,” she said. “It’s been a tremendous transformation and a transformation I’ve never seen another player here at Kansas State go through. I’ve never seen someone go from where she was to where she’s positioned herself this year.

“She used the adversity to make herself stronger and make herself better and help her begin to reach the potential she has.”

Chambers saw something different from Texada this summer.

“She came back and decided she wanted to make a change,” said Chambers, who leads K-State at 18.4 points per game. “You could tell from Day 1 when the summer started that she was ready to go. It wasn’t a gradual thing. You could see her attitude changed right away.”

Texada credits a newfound confidence in life, on and off the court, to her success this season.

“For me, it started over the summer and with games and some wins, that builds confidence,” she said. “And confidence can take you far as a player.”

The combination has proven potent for opponents so far this season, as K-State is off to a 10-5 start overall and 1-2 in Big 12 play. The duo of Chambers and Texada has given the Wildcats one of the more productive backcourts in the league. And throw freshman Bri Craig into the mix, who is averaging 9.6 points a game, and K-State has become increasingly more difficult to defend on the perimeter.

“Brittany has experience out there and I’m still young, but together, with both of us, if one of us is having an off night, we can depend on the other one to get us going,” Texada said. “And then sometimes we’re both on together and that’s when it’s a lot of fun because it keeps the tempo up.”

A year ago, Texada was just 3-for-10 from the field, including three misses from behind the arc. This season she’s shooting 43 percent from the field and has the second-most 3-pointers on the team at 21, connecting 35 percent of the time.

“I think Haley has always been an aggressive shooter, but didn’t always know how to bring it to the college level last year,” Chambers said. “She’s starting to understand the flow better now and understanding where her shots will come from and how they’ll come.”

But as good of a shooter as Texada is, she might be even better off the dribble when she drives to the basket and utilizes her speed — if she can get it under control.

“She’s always had a scorer’s mentality, but played too fast and didn’t know how to control it,” Chambers said. “It’s hard to have that balance for someone who can play that fast — learning how to play in control. That’s hard for a lot of players and it was hard for her too. But to have that ability to go to that next speed and being able to control it is huge.”

With that speed comes great responsibility too, something else Texada is quickly learning as she settles into a role that almost never happened.

“I feel comfortable getting to the basket and sometimes I get too low and I need to just kick it out and hopefully someone else can knock down a 3,” she said.

As Chambers knows, it’s all part of the growth and journey Texada has been on this past year.

“She’s like me, in the fact that scoring is the easier part for her,” Chambers said. “I think as she grows, you’ll see her game expand into other areas. Right now, she’s a great scorer, but sometimes she misses the open passes, like a lot of young players do. As time goes on, you’ll see her making more passes because she has that ability as well and be that complete player.”

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