First-year coach Jeff Mittie says K-State women’s basketball team is ahead of schedule

06/29/2014 7:32 PM

06/29/2014 10:53 PM

After a tumultuous start to his tenure at Kansas State, which included the much-publicized departure of freshman star Leticia Romero, women’s basketball coach Jeff Mittie is finally settling in having recently completed his first 100 days on the job.

Mittie, a Blue Springs native, finalized his coaching staff on Tuesday and already has six practice sessions under his belt. He took a break on Sunday, however, to represent the team and throw out a ceremonial first pitch during K-State Day at Kauffman Stadium for the Royals game against the Angels.

“This group has really worked as well as could be expected,” Mittie said. “They have really been a joy to coach in this time of getting to know them and them getting to know me. We are further ahead than I expected, which is a big positive.”

Mittie brings an overall record of 454-234 and 22 years of head-coaching experience to the Wildcats, who parted ways in March with Deb Patterson, who had led them the previous 18 seasons with nine NCAA Tournament appearances and a pair of Big 12 titles.

Mittie hails from conference foe Texas Christian University, where he had been since 1999 with a 303-175 record. Under his leadership, the Horned Frogs had 13 winning seasons and made 11 postseason appearances, including nine trips to the NCAA Tournament. Prior to that, he coached for shorter stints at Arkansas State and Missouri Western.

He takes over a program that finished ninth out of 10 teams in the Big 12 last season with a 5-13 record in conference play and 11-19 ledger overall. Even after losing Romero, who led the Wildcats in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals last season, Mittie says there is still a good building block for him to start with.

“They had the youngest team in the league, and there is tremendous room for growth here,” Mittie said. “Let’s take that step forward and continue to improve.”

The Wildcats return 10 letter winners from last year’s squad, led by senior Ashia Woods, who is the top returning scorer. She averaged a career-high 10.1 points per game, along with 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists. They also return a healthy Haley Texada, who recovered from a stress fracture in her ankle that forced her to miss the final 14 games of the season.

Mittie bolstered Patterson’s recruiting class with the addition of junior-college transfers Antoinette Taylor and Deborah Meeks. Taylor was an NJCAA All-American while Meeks was named the All-Tournament team.

“It was an advantage with me coming from within the league, because scouting them I already had an evaluation,” Mittie said. “We needed to improve our ability to create off the bounce, and Taylor and Meeks both do that.”

To reach Kathleen Gier, call 816-234-4875 or send email to kgier@kcstar.com.

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