The Kansas State women’s basketball team was up at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday morning putting up shots. The number of shots head coach Jeff Mittie wants to see his team take every week in practice has already elevated multiple times a few weeks into the Wildcats’ (3-0) season.
It was 1,200 for a bit, but now it’s 2,000 shots a week. Maybe a bit more.
“That’s been a big emphasis,” Wildcats guard Rachel Ranke said on Wednesday. “If we want to be a great shooting team we are going to have to get in the gym a little more and get more shots up. It’s just about buying into that kind of sacrifice and I think we are doing a good job of buying into that right now.”
Kansas State has its toughest game of the young season on Sunday against UT Arlington (3-0) on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Wildcats may be fresh off their most convincing performance, a 109-69 thrashing of Oral Roberts on Monday, but Mittie sees the Mavericks as a different kind of team.
“It’s the best team that we’ve played yet,” Mittie said. “That’s a (Sun Belt Conference) championship team coming off 24 wins. They have an excellent graduate transfer in the mix, have size, speed and a little bit of everything. I think it will pose challenges.”
Kansas State is topping teams by 40 points or more and playing strong basketball. So, where do all these extra shots the Wildcats are putting up early in the mornings come into play?
The team has depth at every position and has several proven shooters in Ranke and the improved Chrissy Carr.
For Mittie, the extra shots are necessary.
“It’s why we are doing it,” Mittie said. “I’d love to tell you it was a good thing but I didn’t feel like this team was getting up enough shots. All of us older coaches, our players now come with everything scheduled.
“They have the ability to always get into their high school gyms any time they want. Things are always scheduled now for whatever reason. I think sometimes we have to teach them how to work on their own when nobody is looking more so than we had 10 years ago.”
MIttie stressed that his team’s effort level is unquestioned in practice, especially last week. While he didn’t think the Wildcats had were necessarily “sharp” in practice, he did like what he saw for effort.
That’s important when it comes to putting up 2,000 shots, too. Players have to show the will to do that because they won’t always feel completely healthy doing that.
“I think the main think I want them to understand in order to be a good shooter, is to understand your shot and how you feel on a certain day,” Mittie said. “You don’t always feel the same way. So getting up 1000 shots is not the same as getting those up throughout the week. Maybe you come in and don’t feel so good. How do you make shots when you don’t feel good?”
Mittie himself was impressed by the 109 number his Wildcats hung on Oral Roberts, but that was a game where they effectively did mostly everything well. Specifically, they played well for most of the game, instead of in spurts. That’s another area he’s stressed.
So what happens after the Wildcats play their best game of the early season?
They practice even harder.
Mittie’s players are improving. Evolving, even. Ranke showed up to Kansas State in 2017 as almost exclusively a 3-point shooter, she said. Her game has moved more to the paint, transition and in her passing.
Carr, too. She’s becoming the scorer and shooter that she strives to be.
This isn’t even considering what freshman forward Ayoka Lee and star forward Peyton Williams bring to the table.
The improvement and effort are a positive for Mittie.
Playing a talented Mavericks team will prove a quality test.
“I think it takes a lot to win a championship in any league,” Mittie said. “So the characteristics or DNA of an opposing team like that, you know they are going to fight and have championship culture. They are more than a one-year team this is a program. Those are a tough team to play and those are tough-minded teams. I think that’s what we will get on Sunday.”