Dec. 18, 2012
|WASHINGTON AT GEORGIA TECH
Fri., Dec. 21 | 9:00 a.m., PT | Alaska Airlines Arena
| Live Stats
Buy Tickets | TV: ESPN3
Online: 1150kknw.com | Radio: 1150 AM
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
Yes, Kristi Kingma is shooting just 30 percent.
And she couldn't be happier.
"It's going to come around. But I'm not really focused on that at this point," the Huskies' fifth-year senior and all-Pac-12 sharpshooter said Tuesday, during this third regular-season month she has played since reconstructive knee surgery in September 2011.
"Obviously I'm not making as many shots as I had hoped to make. But, to be honest, this season I've been having as much fun as I've ever had playing just as far as team chemistry and what else I can do for this team."
Though she is coming off a combined 4-for-27 shooting weekend as the Huskies (7-2) lost at home to UC-Santa Barbara then beat Idaho, Kingma will be Washington's indispensible leader again Friday when UW plays at Georgia Tech (4-5) at 9 a.m. Seattle time on espn3.com and 1150 AM radio in Seattle.
She is 22 now, taking independent-studies courses after already walking in graduation ceremonies with a communications degree. She is secure in her place in the program -- and with herself -- following a year of grueling rehabilitation. She likened it to training for the Olympics, and her fiendish work effort each day in bulling through the pain and frustration wowed her UW trainers.
Kingma missed 11 of 13 shots in Sunday's win over Idaho. So instead, she grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds for her undersized team. She also had two assists and did not commit a turnover while playing 39 minutes.
She did that less than 24 hours after she played all 40 minutes and missed 10 of 12 shots in the Huskies' 54-46 loss to UCSB. She wasn't the only one cold. UW shot a frigid 21 percent last Saturday. Kingma, the focal point of the offense with sophomore point guard Jazmine Davis, again did not turn the ball over and had seven more rebounds that day.
The bottom line: Despite almost no rebounding and poor defense early in the season and a lack of offensive efficiency lately, Washington was flying to Atlanta Wednesday off to its best start since being 9-2 in December 2005.
"To me, she's playing really, really well," said second-year coach Kevin McGuff, who missed feeling any of Kingma's all-league impact on game days of his first UW season. "She is adding a tremendous amount to our team, on and off the court.
"It's a long process. It's easy coming off an injury like that to be where you want to be. ... To do all that we ask of her, I think she is doing a fantastic job."
Still, McGuff knows that for Washington to be in the top half of the rugged Pac-12 this season - and thus in position for its first NCAA tournament bid since 2007 - it needs Kingma shooting in her 2010-11, all-league form.
"Kristi needs to be a huge part of what we are doing," the coach said. "For the team that we are, perimeter-oriented, she has to be a big part of our success."
True to her competitive nature, Kingma says "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated with shooting 20 percent; that would frustrate any player."
Yet true to her maturity and perspective she adds: "But we're winning."
Each time she is on the floor - practicing or playing - she reminds herself to be "selfless." She knows feeding Davis or Talia Walton for shots maybe more open than hers will ultimately make this a more confident and multi-dimensional team in league play that begins inside the talented Pac-12 next month.
"It's just the experience of I have now, being 22 and feeling so much older than the younger girls," she said. "It's making the extra pass. When I am out there I am thinking, `Just be selfless.'
"And I think that's a life lesson."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Georgia Tech has lost the veteran core from a team that reached the Sweet 16 of last spring's NCAA tournament. The Yellow Jackets' 4-5 record includes losses to national powers Tennessee, Duke and Purdue. "They are really athletic," McGuff said, noting Georgia Tech's youth and tough early season schedule. "It's a real challenge for us to go on a long trip and play a really talented, hard-working team." ... Friday's early matinee in Atlanta will be just the second meeting between the schools. Georgia Tech won 60-27 in Seattle two seasons ago, the Huskies' last season before McGuff and his staff arrived from Xavier. ... McGuff said freshman G Heather Corral, another shooting threat, is likely to make her season debut by the conference opener Jan. 4 at home against Arizona State. Corral broke her wrist on her right, shooting hand last month. "She's really close," McGuff said. ... The Huskies will fly back to Seattle Friday night. The players will then get a four-day break to go home for Christmas.