November 18, 2012 12:32:20 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
Kiandria "Kiki" Patterson showed Friday she looks good in maroon.
There was a time earlier this year, though, Patterson thought she would look equally stylish in garnet.
But the work of Mississippi State University women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer and his assistant coaches did the trick and helped turn Patterson from a would-be Gamecock to a Bulldog.
On Friday, Patterson made her verbal commitment to MSU official in a signing ceremony in the Columbus High School gym.
Looking back to earlier this year, Patterson credited the MSU coaches for their efforts in keeping her close to home because she admitted she wasn't going to MSU before Schaefer was hired in March.
"Mississippi State wasn't even in the equation," Patterson said. "When the new coaching staff came in, it really changed my whole outlook on State. They recruited me hard and let me know I needed to stay in state and play for (a team) in my state,"
Patterson said Schaefer and his coaches had to "convince" her MSU was the right fit for her because she thought for "a long time" she was going to be a Gamecock.
"Never in a million years would I have thought I would have been a Bulldog," Patterson said.
Patterson said her thinking changed gradually. She said Schaefer and the coaches called her "the first block" in a process that was going to help establish MSU as a contender in the Southeastern Conference and a regular in the NCAA tournament.
"He said by me staying in state it would set up girls to come behind me," Patterson said. "They will say, 'I want to be like Kiki. I want to stay in state with State.' It helped change my mind a lot because I know I have a lot of younger girls looking up to me through basketball. By me starting a new trend, hopefully they will follow."
Patterson joins a recruiting class that includes Ketara Chapel, the top-rated power forward in Texas; fellow Texan Dominique Dillingham, of Klein Collins High; Georgia Super 64 recruit Breanna Richardson, of Rockdale County High in Conyers, Ga.; and 6-foot-5 Chinwe Okorie, a Lagos, Nigeria, native who is attending Stoneleigh-Burnham Prep School in Greenfield, Mass.
"We are excited to be getting the best player in the state of Mississippi. We saw Kiki play last week, and watching her competitiveness and will to win was exciting," Schaefer said. "She competes to the very last play, and she has a presence on the floor that is required (at) point guard."
Prior to the 2012-13 season, FILA named Patterson, a 5-9 point guard, as the top senior guard in the state of Mississippi. She also claimed a second-straight Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen selection, and was named one of the Mississippi High School Activities Association's Fab 15 Seniors by High School Sports in Mississippi.
Last season, Patterson averaged 20.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, three steals, and three assists per game to help guide Yvonne Hairston's Lady Falcons to a 25-3 record and the Mississippi Class 6A North State semifinals. She also was The Dispatch's Large Schools co-Player of the Year.
As a sophomore, Patterson played shooting guard and averaged 27.3 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
Patterson also honed her skills playing Amateur Athletic Union basketball for Team Memphis Elite.
Hairston said Patterson moved to the point in an effort to prepare her for college. She feels Patterson has matured in the past two seasons and is someone who recognizes she will get a lot of attention from defenses. She said Patterson has a better understanding of when to pick her spots and how to get her teammates more involved to keep the offense flowing.
"It is an honor for her to have an opportunity to play at Mississippi State," Hairston said. "The SEC is probably one of the best conferences in our nation. Anytime you have an opportunity to play on that level, it is great. I know she will be an asset to their program."
Hairston said one challenge Patterson will face it competing against taller and bigger guards in the SEC. She said Patterson's quickness (she recorded a time of 12.5 seconds in the 100-yard dash) to make up for what she may lack in size.
"I feel Kiki can score on anybody," Hairston said. "We try to put her down on the post if they have a smaller guard on her. Even if they have a taller guard on her, she can score. That is the most important thing: She can create. Whatever they give her, she is going to take."
Hairston also feels Patterson's speed will be an asset on defense. She knows Schaefer's focus is defense, and she feels Patterson, quickness, strength, and knowledge of the game will serve her well at the next level.
Patterson is equally excited about the opportunity. She admitted it was difficult to tell the coaches at South Carolina she had changed her mind and she favored the maroon of MSU to the garnet of South Carolina. Now that a long recruiting ordeal is over, Patterson is eager to take her talents to the next level and help Schaefer realize his goal for MSU.
"It is going to be hard work, but even with the transition from middle school to high school ball, I did what I had to do to get the job done," Patterson said. "That is the mind-set I am taking going to State. I have to do what I have to do to be on the court. They signed me, so I have to step up and play."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.