Any time a current CSU women’s basketball player is mentioned in the same breath with Becky Hammon, sheâ€™s done something pretty special.
Senior Kim Mestdagh enters the 2010-2011 season as the pre-season Mountain West Player of the Year, the programâ€™s first pre-season player of the year since Hammon.
â€œI really appreciate it, but it gives me a pressure that I need to get it at the end of the season too,â€ Mestdagh said. â€œ(To handle the pressure) I just try to focus on the team. Iâ€™m not really an individual player, so whatever we can get accomplished with the team I like way better than what I personally accomplish.â€
Mestdagh was named second-team all Mountain West following her sophomore and junior seasons, and scored her 1,000th career point against UNLV last season.
In the off season, instead of returning home to Belgium for the entire summer to compete with her national team as she has done in the past, Mestdagh returned to Colorado after two months to spend more time with her teammates.
â€œMost of the summer I was here, actually, playing pickup with the team, lifting with the team. I did everything here, basically,â€ she said.
Coach Kristen Holt noted the improvement in Mestdagh from last season to this season once official practices started.
â€œYou can tell sheâ€™s a senior as far as her strength and skill level, and thereâ€™s a sense of urgency,â€ Holt said. â€œSheâ€™s become more of a vocal leader and really reached out to her teammates and made them better players.â€
Mestdagh has improved individually as well, working on communicating with her teammates and taking less plays off than previously.
â€œI donâ€™t let the mistakes I make affect me as much,â€ Mestdagh said. â€œIâ€™ve kind of matured a little more.â€
Even with the steps forward sheâ€™s made, Mestdagh acknowledged thereâ€™s still room to get better.
â€œIâ€™m still working on ball handling, and I want to be better under pressure,â€ she said.
Holt struggled to find areas in Mestdaghâ€™s game that needed to improve initially, but eventually she agreed with her star.
â€œWhen things arenâ€™t falling and sheâ€™s frustrated, just staying within the game plan and that she can do other things than just score,â€ Holt said.
Mestdagh has showed her versatility in the pre-season, averaging 20 points, five assists and six rebounds per game in two exhibition contests.
â€œWhen she first came in, all she could really do was shoot from the outside,â€ Holt said. â€œNow I think sheâ€™s a better defender, she drives to the basket better, sheâ€™s a better passer. I think all areas of her game have improved.â€
The games start to count Friday night when the team opens its regular season in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to take on the University of Northern Iowa.
â€œI just know that when sheâ€™s out on the floor, sheâ€™s going to make good decisions, work really hard, and she really wants to win,â€ Holt said. â€œSheâ€™s just going to find a way to get it done.â€
Womenâ€™s Basketball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior from Leper, Belgium
Two-time second team All Mountain West Selection
Only 4-year senior on team
10th on CSUâ€™s all-time scoring list