Sept. 30, 2011
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Editor’s Note: Former Kansas State student-athletes Kendra Wecker and Mark Simoneau will be inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday. Ceremonies will take place at 4 p.m., at the Wichita Boathouse, with the event being emceed by Kansas native Gary Bender. Today, “Sports Extra” will feature Wecker, while Simoneau will be showcased on Monday.
By Mark Janssen
It’s seldom that a 10-year-old brings national attention to a small community, but that’s exactly what Kendra Wecker did for the north central Kansas town of Marysville in 1992.
She appeared on “Good Morning America,” was invited to be on the Letterman Show, and ESPN showed up one day to tape a segment.
All the hoopla was because Wecker could punt, and pass, and kick a football with the best of anyone her age, including boys.
Wecker qualified for the National Punt, Pass and Kick contest staged in San Diego where she would place second in the boy-girl competition.
Of winning the qualifying rounds, Wecker said, “I didn’t think much about it until I made nationals and the media made such a big deal out of it. I grew up around a lot of boy cousins, so I was always playing ball with them during recess. Competing against the guys was nothing new to me.”
As an 11-year-old, the “Wecker Rule” was put in place by the Punt, Pass and Kick folks with a separate girls division established, which she won at the national level.
It was just the beginning of a career that on Sunday will have her being inducted into the Wichita-based Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, along with ex-Wildcat football student-athlete Mark Simoneau.
“It really is a great honor,” said Wecker, who today lives in Edmond, Okla., where she is co-owner of “Athletes In Rhythm,” which includes giving private lessons to improve the basketball skills, along with total fitness, of young girls. In addition, Wecker is serving as an assistant coach at Edmond Memorial High School.
The 28-year-old Wecker says she’s far enough removed from her Marysville High School, Kansas State and WNBA career that it’s not something she thinks about on a daily basis.
“That’s what made this honor so neat,” she said. “It’s given me a chance to reflect on the so many games, moments and people, who touched my life along that journey.”
Marysville High School – 1997-1998 to 2000-2001
Wecker helped Marysville High School to a state basketball title as a senior, two state team track titles, won the javelin competition four years and ran a leg on the 4 x 100 gold medal relay team four times.
“I think I won some type of sprint race, but I honestly don’t remember what it was,” she laughed.
Her favorite memories were the two or three basketball clashes per season against North Central Kansas League arch rival Clay Center High School, who just happened to have a player by the name of Nicole Ohlde.
“We packed the gyms. Both of our teams were very talented,” said Wecker. Laughing she added, “I can’t say that we liked each other. She was from Clay Center and we didn’t care for them in any way.”
But then the two were paired, along with Laurie Koehn, on the summer AAU Kansas Thunderbolts and a friendship was made, eventually.
Laughing, Wecker said, “She was still from Clay Center and we didn’t hit it off immediately even though we were teammates. It took some time to warm up after being the worst of enemies during the school year.”
A year older, Ohlde became a K-State Wildcat, which made it easier for Wecker to follow suit the next year.
Kansas State University 2001-2002 to 2004-2005
The four years prior to Wecker becoming a K-State Wildcat, the women’s basketball team had won 12, 13, 16 and 11 games with a collective 19-45 Big 12 record. During the Wecker era, the Wildcats won 26, 29, 25 and 24 games, which included a 51-13 mark in Big 12 play.
The Wildcats won the Big 12 title in 2004 and went to four NCAA Tournaments, which included a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2002.
“I’m not married with kids, but as of now, those were the best four years of my life,” said Wecker of her Wildcat years, which included becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, and having her No. 53 hoisted to the rafters.
When it comes to top memories, Wecker will mention a win at Texas Tech, a triple-overtime win at Texas, the Sweet 16 and so many other Big 12 games. And, she’ll mention the sold-out Bramlage Coliseum and the “unbelievable crowd support.”
And, she will tell you that the 63-60 loss to Vanderbilt in the NCAA Tournament of 2005 was “… the worst feeling I ever had. That was the end of my career. It was super, super sad.”
But more than those on-court memories, the 2005 Big 12 Player of the Year says, “Our team was so close. We lived together, went to the movies together, went to the mall together, ate together. We were family and I will never forget them.”
Also on Wecker’s K-State resume is winning the Big 12 javelin title in her freshman year with a toss of 173-7, which still stands as a school record.
Post K-State Days
Wecker would be the No. 4 selection in the 2005 WNBA Draft, but it was a professional career that was never meant to be.
With the San Antonio Silver Stars, Wecker tore her ACL in the first game of her rookie season that ended her year. She would go on to play 58 professional games in San Antonio and Washington averaging 3.7 points per game.
Upon her retirement from the game, Wecker joined the Oklahoma basketball staff as a graduate assistant and video coordinator, where she also put her K-State broadcast journalism major to work as an analyst on the OU women’s basketball network.
Getting a touch of coaching, Wecker said, “It was an eye-opening experience. It is certainly different than being a player. I never knew all the work that went into being a coach. There’s just an unbelievable time commitment.”
Wecker added, “You see all the time that a coach puts in to recruiting a player, and then that 17-year-old tells you she’s not coming. It’s devastating. You get resentful, but then I remembered that’s what I did to Oklahoma when I decided to come to K-State. That’s just the way it works.”
For now, Wecker says she’s enjoying her life with “Athletes In Rhythm” and preparing young players for a high school career.
“I’m learning that you can be a mentor and role model outside of college athletics,” she said. “It’s an area where you can have an impact on kids that are 10 and 12.”
And do these Oklahoma youngsters know who Kendra Wecker is?
“It occasionally comes up that I played in the WNBA and you can tell that they Googled me. But I think their parents are more into that stuff than the kids are.”
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