If Leti Romero is the face of the Kansas State women’s basketball team, even as a freshman, then Kindred Wesemann has to be the heartbeat.
The pint-sized guard packs more punch, excitement and energy than most 10 year olds hopped up on sugar — on and off the court.
Whether it’s a series of fist pumps, full-body convulsions of pure exuberance after drawing a hard foul on her way to the rim or an explosion off the bench to celebrate a big play by a teammate, Wesemann’s seemingly endless supply of passion is exactly what this team needs, K-State coach Deb Patterson said.
“I love it, just love it,” she said. “I feel like I was beating a drum trying to get some life out of dead fish. And when you’re not confident, I think it’s hard to express that kind of emotion. When you play scared it paralyzes you. I think we’re beginning to see what Kindred is capable of being emotionally.”
Wesemann’s excitability shouldn’t be confused for cockiness or showing up of her opponent. Think of it as more of a shot in the arm for her team, one that has needed it at times during a season with more losing than winning.
It’s the same passion for the game Patterson said Shalee Lehning, Danielle Zanotti, Jalana Childs and Brittany Chambers often displayed on the court.
“I’ve always been that way, but it’s probably gotten bigger since I’ve been here,” Wesemann joked of her outward enthusiasm. “I did it before, in high school, but they would look at you funny because they might not share your same love for the game, or wouldn’t understand it. I’ve always been that kind of person, though, but I’m a lot more aggressive now.
“I didn’t always fist pump five times in a row or anything in high school — it was maybe once or twice and then it was over.”
The freshman from Pleasant Hill, Mo., doesn’t just save it for the court. Wesemann is just as animated on the bench, looking at times like she needs a seatbelt to keep from going through the Bramlage Coliseum roof.
“We’ve talked about how we need energy, not just the five on the floor, but from the whole bench too,” said Wesemann, who is listed at 5-foot-8, but is actually closer to 5-5. “I just try to bring that on the bench, on the court, everywhere I go.”
The overwhelming excitement stems from confidence — something else Wesemann has no shortage of these days. She played her first 18 games this season before reaching double figures, but has done it six times in the last 10 games, including the last four outings, averaging nearly 10 points during that stretch.
“She’s on a real upswing and really been bringing it,” Patterson said. “It was like little chick breaking out of its egg. Before, she would stick her head out and chirp a lot of crazy words and I would knock it right back down into the egg — you’re not quite ready yet. And then she started to break her head out and what she was doing made sense.
“Now, she’s completely out of the eggshell and it’s awesome. The ability to shoot the 3, come off of on-balls, penetrate to the rim, be a crafty passer — all of that was part of what we felt she would bring to the floor. We’re starting to see signs of it all coming into play in any given game.”
The Wildcats’ season may be on life support — now in a win-or-go-home situation to open the Big 12 tournament against Kansas on Friday in Oklahoma City — but the recent emergence of Wesemann, along with Romero, at the very least might be providing a preview of a special backcourt duo the next three years.
“Either one of us can bring the ball up the court and we both have good court vision,” said Wesemann, who scored a career-high 15 points in the Wildcats’ win at Kansas on Feb. 26. “We feed off each other because we can both do a lot of different things. With Leti dribble driving, I can spot up and shoot if my girl helps in, or the other way around. It’s nice to be able to have those kinds of options.”
Though both Romero and Wesemann have similarities, they’re still very different as well. Romero attacks opponents with precision, seemingly looking for holes and weaknesses to pick teams apart, while Wesemann is the shooter with the quick trigger finger, unafraid to take the big shot, inside and out. It’s the only way she knows how.
“My dad coached me through eighth grade and if I didn’t shoot, I got talked to on the way home,” said Wesemann, who has seven starts this season, including the last four games. “He didn’t care if I missed, as long I was open and taking good shots.”
That’s the key. Good shots. And the biggest reason, Patterson says, for Wesemann’s late-season surge.
“She’s confident and has an understanding of what are good plays and not good plays,” she said. “That’s everything we want — open-look, shot — open-look, shot. There are two or three kids out there who aren’t going to get that window, and then we have some who pass up that shot. It’s the brightest green light with Kindred and it helps.
“Shoot it before you turn it over, shoot it before someone else turns it over and shoot it before the defense gets a deflection. If it’s a good look for us, take the shot, and she does that. It’s big and it takes a lot of pressure off the offense.”
Romero named second-team All-Big 12
K-State’s Leti Romero added another couple pieces of hardware to her trophy case Thrusday morning, as she was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team and a unanimous selection to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team in an announcement by the league office.
Romero is K-State’s first Big 12 All-Freshman Team representative since Ashley Sweat in 2006-07 season and the first K-State freshman to earn All-Big 12 honors since 2002.
Romero is the first freshman in school history and only freshman guard in NCAA Division I this season to register the combination of 400 or more points, 100 or more rebounds, 100 or more assists and 50 or more steals.
The guard from Las Palmas, Spain, who was the first player in school history to be selected as a four-time Big 12 Freshman of the Week, has pieced together one of the best freshman seasons in school history.
Romero leads the Wildcats in scoring (14.2), rebounds (5.8) and assists (4.8) per game.