Ashia Woods has come a long way for the Kansas State women’s basketball team.
The sophomore from Wichita played a supporting role a year ago off the bench for a team that made the NCAA tournament for the second straight season.
Now, a year older, Woods is being asked to do a lot more for the undefeated Wildcats as an everyg-game starter.
Last season Woods appeared in 34 games, averaging 14 minutes per contest for the Wildcats.
What a difference a year makes, though, as Woods has become one of the veteran players on a team full of newcomers.
And so far, so good too for the 5-11 guard/forward, who has helped the Wildcats to a 7-0 start. K-State hopes to make it eight straight wins today when it hosts Texas-El Paso at 1, televised across the state on Cox 22.
“I think Ashia has the potential to be an extraordinary defender,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said, “Her role has really evolved and changed and been very diverse this year. We’ve been playing her a lot in the four position — she’s been defending inside and out and she’s been playing inside and out, and that’s a lot to absorb.”
This year, Woods leads her team with 15 steals and 18 offensive rebounds. While she would like to be putting away more baskets for the Wildcats — averaging 6.4 points per game — Woods said her goal is to continue to be a defensive impact player.
“To be more of a defensive stopper,” Woods said would be a goal of hers. “Have more steals. Scoring would be nice too, but mainly my focus is on defense.”
This afternoon K-State will need more of the Woods defense when the Wildcats face the Miners at Bramlage Coliseum.
The Miners (8-1) are paced by 6-1 junior Kayla Thornton, who is averaging 13.1 points per game, including a career-high 29-point game in her team’s 88-81 win over Texas State on Dec. 1.
Woods’ play on the defensive end has been key for a K-State team that has no size this year. At 5-11, Woods is one of the tallest on the team.
“For her to continue to accept the challenge that we put on her plate to be a great defender regardless of who she’s defending and where it is on the floor, takes a lot of mental acuity and a lot of discipline,” Patterson said.
Last season Woods’ job was to spell teammates on the outside and even on the inside when needed.
She said she knew with K-State losing Jalana Childs, Branshea Brown and Tasha Dickey, she would be asked to do more this year.
“I knew we were losing a lot of seniors and I figured our sophomores would have to step up because we would only have two returning starters out of last year’s team,” she said, “I figured I’d have to step up and play somewhat of an important role, or at least become more of a producer for our team, offensive or defensively.”
For Patterson having young talent on her roster means room for growth.
“I look to continue to challenge her day in and day out with an even higher level of aggressiveness, but she’s got wingspan, she’s athletic, she anticipates well, and if we can get her to be even more and more physical, good things will come,” Patterson said.