They say good things come to those who wait.
Only, in this case, Kelly Thomson didn’t have much choice.
The Kansas State guard missed what was supposed to be her freshman season last year after tearing her left ACL during preseason workouts. Thomson was the second of five Wildcats to go down with season-ending injuries a year ago.
“It was frustrating and difficult because I waited for so long and worked for so long to be here and get to suit up and be part of this program,” Thomson said Tuesday. “Just being out there to warm up is the coolest feeling, being able to run out of the tunnel and see all the fans, is something I’ve dreamt to be a part of for a long, long time.
“To have that injury and delay was really devastating to me, but I think it helped me in the long run to be able to grow and mature.”
It showed in the Wildcats’ first exhibition game of the season on Oct. 28 when the former Riley County High standout scored 14 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting — including four 3-pointers — to help K-State defeat Washburn. The Wildcats open the regular season this Friday night at home against Tennessee State at 5:45.
“I just feel extremely blessed to be out there in the first place,” said Thomson, who had never missed more than a week or two with an injury before last year. “It was nice having these coaches, teammates and support from all these fans out here. You can’t beat that for your first collegiate game — a first game back from an injury.”
Once Thomson shook off some of the rust, it wasn’t long before she looked like the same player who scored more than 1,200 career-points and made 192 3-pointers at Riley County.
The 5-foot-10 guard missed her first three shots and turned the ball over once after coming off the bench midway through the first half against Washburn. Thomson finally got a 3-pointer to fall just before halftime and then made four straight from the field — including three more treys — in the second half.
“Coming off the bench, you don’t want to go right into the game and start missing shots,” Thomson said. “That’s the worst thing you can do coming off the bench. It was nerve-racking, but good knowing that Coach (Deb) Patterson was supportive the whole time and wanted those shots to go up — that helped me get through it.”
Thomson is unlikely to score 14 points every night for the Wildcats, but the things she did off the bench are exactly what Patterson had hoped to see from the shooter when she earned a verbal commitment from Thomson in the summer following her sophomore year at Riley County.
“I thought at the beginning of the year she impressed me as much as anybody coming into the gym last season,” Patterson said. “She would have helped us. Kelly is aggressive with the 3-point shot — I love that mentality — she has an edge and brings great attention to detail. She’s very coachable and now its just about physically learning how to play with the athletes.
“But you want to talk about being accountable, dependable, what-do-you-need type of a player, she’s very dialed in.”
Thomson said even though she couldn’t play last season, she learned a lot by watching from the sidelines, something the former Mercury All-Flint Hills Player of the Year hopes will pay off this season.
“This is an entirely different level, a faster game — everything is a notch higher, if not 10 notches higher than what high school was,” said Thomson, who scored two points on a pair of free throws in K-State’s exhibition win over Alaska-Anchorage last Friday night. “It helped me gain a perspective of the game, being able to sit back and watch the leaders we had last year in Brittany (Chambers) and Mariah (White). I tried to take in what they did everyday.”
Seeing Thomson back on the floor again has been a little surreal for Patterson, who got to know Thomson as a regular participant during K-State’s summer basketball camps.
“My favorite thing about Kelly during the (first) game was the moment when she was out there on the other end of the floor and I was a looking at her and I had a major flashback to her being at camp,” she said. “I allowed myself that moment, remembering her as a camper, and now she’s finally out there on the floor having come back from that knee injury.”