Feb. 24, 2010
By Michael Jeremiah
SEATTLE - As her sophomore season winds down, it seems like Kristi Kingma has been at Washington for more than just two years. From the day she stepped on campus, she has been a featured player for Coach Tia Jackson. Now, she's showing signs of consistency to sustain the flashes of brilliance that have marked her career at Washington.
Kingma is the leading scorer for Washington over the last three games, and is giving opponents a reason to shift their focus off teammate Sami Whitcomb. Dangerous from three and deadly from midrange, Kingma is one of the Huskies top threats on the offensive end.
"She's just been aggressive," said Coach Tia Jackson at her weekly press conference. "She's just playing within herself in the scheme of what we are trying to do out there and doing what she does best. She shares the ball well and is playing really well right now."
Playing within herself is important for Kingma. As a freshman, Kingma had trouble with forcing the issue at inopportune times. In a three game stretch coming off an injury, Kingma scored 19 points against USC and 25 against UCLA, but went 2-16 from the field in the next game.
It's been a different story for Kingma as a sophomore. She started the season coming off the bench, but an injury to shooting guard Sara Mosiman thrust Kingma back into the limelight.
A few weeks after her return to the starting lineup, Kingma showed to Husky fans that she isn't just a talented player but also the type of player that can be a leader late in the game. Against Arizona, the Huskies were trying to finish a close game at home. When Arizona started fouling in the last minute, Kingma found the ball in her hands.
She hit all four of her attempts in the last minute, and along with Sami Whitcomb put the game away at the line for Washington. Kingma finished with 25 points, and shot 12 of 16 from the line.
It's not a surprise those two were at the line for Washington. They are two of the Huskies best shooters, and Whitcomb is one of the leaders of the team and Kingma is considered to be on her way to that level under the tutelage of Jackson and Whitcomb.
According to Jackson, Kingma is already active in the huddle as a sophomore and with a large senior class departing her leadership role will only increase next season. For now, she has Whitcomb as an example of a leader.
"It's awesome having Sami here. She's been such a great role model to follow after, especially playing with her for two years. She leads by example," said Kingma. "To follow someone like that going into next year is definitely going to be a positive."
Kingma's leadership is an intangible that coaches love to go along with the box score production. In games Kingma has been healthy for the Huskies have won, Kingma in averaging 14.7 points per game.
"It's all about finding rhythm," said Kingma. "It's all about making sure that mentally and physically that you're there. It's never been a mental thing for me, I feel focused and prepared. But physically I just haven't' been able to perform at the best level.
"More than anything, I think that I'm more relaxed now. I know what the team needs from me especially as a leader. I think that the more I'm able to get in a rhythm the more I know what to expect from the game."
The rivalry game against Washington State this weekend will likely have more meaning for Kingma than her teammates. There are other players from the area that understand the rivalry, but Kingma has been forced to watch two of the four possible matchups with the Cougars from the bench dealing with injuries.
Nagging ankle injuries have usually been the reason for Kingma's absence. This time though, a concussion suffered against UCLA the weekend before forced her out of another rivalry game.
"It was tough," said Kingma. "Obviously getting the news that the concussion was going to keep me out was really tough because I found it out not too much before the game. Washington State is our rival team and any time you have a rivalry game you get excited for it."
Kingma isn't the only one excited for this weekend. A 29-game winning streak against the Cougars is on the line this weekend, and although they won in 76-70 overtimes on the road the Huskies plan on being even better this time out.
As media joked about avoiding any curbs or other ankle rolling hazards, it became obvious that Kingma can't wait to play Washington State this weekend. The only person more thrilled about Kingma playing this time is Jackson.
"She's been playing tremendously," said Jackson. "I remember when she came back after being out for a game she wanted to make sure that she continued to build on her aggressive play and she has done nothing but that. I'm really excited about that."