Every so often, I’ll go to my map of Kansas, put my finger on tiny Sublette, and trace the long route to Manhattan. And think about how many times Shalee Lehning’s parents, Steve and Jane, have made that drive through the Sunflower State.
Sheesh. It blows me away. It makes the two-plus hours it takes me to get to Manhattan from Overland Park seem like it’s just around the corner.
The Lehnings are used to lots of travel, though … one or the other or both have always been there for Shalee – in AAU ball, high school and now in her senior season at Kansas State.
Sunday in a victory over UT-San Antonio, Lehning broke the school record for career assists. Tuesday night in a win at Arkansas State, she got 11 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists: her third career triple-double, a Big 12 record.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, I don’t know how the pro teams will evaluate Lehning. Different coaches/scouts see different things with players, and I’ve been surprised before upon hearing what some of them think. They are looking at it through a prism formed by what they’ve seen makes a successful player at the pro level. It doesn’t seem that “intangible” qualities are valued as much as they would be by a college coach.
Whether Lehning’s court sense, nose for the ball and gargantuan heart are given as much weight as her inconsistent perimeter shooting and the fact that K-State is perceived as being a stronger offensive than defensive program … we’ll have to see. As the cliche goes, it’s a business at the pro level, and there have been players who didn’t get a realistic shot when I thought they would.
That’s a few months down the line, though, and there’s still a lot of time for Lehning to be evaluated. During that time, K-State fans will both celebrate and mourn her final season, and fans around the Big 12 will acknowledge their appreciation, too. Even as they sometimes grumble, “Good grief, how did that little pest get THAT rebound?”
And Steve and Jane will keep making that drive, and ones even longer. Shalee is the youngest of three children by a few years. At a game during Shalee’s freshman season, Steve told me that he and Jane had pretty much thought that they were “done” with their family after Shalee’s older sister and brother were born. But then one more little girl arrived.
And Steve said that he couldn’t imagine what his life would have been like if that hadn’t happened – the child that had kept him and his wife on the go, giving them so many trips and memories.
He “joked” that without Shalee, he probably would have been just sitting around getting old … but he was so emotional saying it, that it clearly wasn’t a joke. She was a blessing beyond anything he had ever anticipated.
I think that resonated a lot for me at that particular time because just a few months earlier, my sister had had her third baby – one who wasn’t exactly “planned,” if you will, and who came several years after the first two. I thought of my sister and sweet little Gabe when Steve talked about Shalee, and I think of that connection still.