Three regular season games or six days.
No matter how one wants to look at it, that’s what remains in the Kansas State career Katya Leick waited so long to get started.
The Wildcat senior will play her final game at Bramlage Coliseum on Monday night against TCU before K-State heads south to Oklahoma City for the Big 12 tournament.
It’ll be the final week of a long and winding journey that started in Nebraska five years ago and now wraps up in Manhattan, one Leick said has made her a stronger person today.
“I wish I had another year and things would have gone differently,” said Leick, who is in Lawrence tonight with the Wildcats to play the Jayhawks. “I wish I could stay longer, but its been a great ride and I’m sad its coming toward the end of it.”
The Grey Cloud Township, Minn., native began her career with the Cornhuskers in 2009 — playing in 18 games with six starts — before transferring to K-State after two seasons.
Leick, who is averaging 7.8 points and 4.4 rebounds a game this season, had to sit out her first year with the Wildcats due to transfer rules. Then a season ago, ready to finally get back on the court, the 6-foot-1 forward suffered a devastating knee injury that caused her to miss another season.
Two years removed from basketball, Leick made her return to competitive basketball this season, helping anchor a young K-State team from her forward spot with 23 starts. And though the season hasn’t turned out how she had hoped — as the Wildcats are just 10-16 overall and 4-11 in the Big 12 — Leick said she feels blessed to have experienced everything she has in Manhattan.
“After coming from a bad situation at Nebraska where I was asked to leave, Coach (Deb Patterson), Coach (Kamie Ethridge) and all the coaches have been such role models for me as a women growing into an adult,” she said. “They’ve been here for my faith, for personal things, they’ve been my rock, on top of the fact that I have the most amazing teammates ever.”
“There’s a plan for everything and a reason why everything happens,” Leick said. “There’s a reason why God had me go this route, why I had to do it this way — I’ve been here three years, but I only got to play one… There are a lot of things I can take from this experience and that I’m grateful for. I’ve grown as a woman and I’ve learned a lot in my faith and as a person.”
Leick is one of three seniors who will be honored Monday night, joining four-year Wildcat Chantay Caron and junior college transfer Ashlynn Knoll, who also missed most of last season with a knee injury.
Patterson said Leick will go down as one of the hardest working players she’s had in the gym in recent years, always willing to do what’s best for the team.
“She’s in that group that understands everyday what it takes and how hard to work and the intensity it takes — has a big heart,” she said. “She’s a kid who saw her career here reduced to one year, instead two, but what a huge piece to our puzzle she’s been this year in terms of heart, energy, spirit and work ethic.”
Though Leick is a senior, there’s no doubt her development on the court has been slowed over the years because of the layoffs from the transfer and injury. Yet, Patterson said Leick’s voice within the team has proven extremely valuable, especially this season with seven active players who are either freshmen or sophomores.
“She, in her own way, through her own experiences, is able to exemplify the idea of keep working hard, keep believing, stay positive and good things will come,” Patterson said. “A lot of times wisdom is just that, teaching people how to get outside of the moment of their emotion and see something bigger.
“When you’ve gone through things she’s gone through — unbelievable injuries, having to transfer, thinking you’re ready to compete and then having it all taken away and then this year competing with a very young and inexperienced team. It’s a lot to handle.”
It’s a leadership role Leick has enjoyed this season and another example of the journalism and mass communications major trying to make the most of the situation.
“For me, maybe my wisdom hasn’t come from being on the court, in that way, but from being patient and in more big-picture things,” said Leick, who scored 23 points in the Wildcats’ win over Iowa State this season and 22 points in K-State’s upset over Oklahoma. “If you’re having a hard day at practice, don’t let that hard day at practice hold you back the entire week, then that week leads to a game and then that leads to other things.
“It’s about realizing you’re going to have hard games and hard practices, things sometimes aren’t going to come, but it’s the work you put in with your teammates that will get your through, watching film, talking with you coaches and learning. I think big picture, with me as an example — it can go so fast and that’s something I don’t want anyone else to have to realize their senior year, like they threw away a year.”