By BRETT MARSHALL
MANHATTAN — The past met the present, and the present met the future in so many ways on Saturday during the celebration of Shalee Lehning's induction into the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame.
Lehning, the former prep sensation from Sublette, was celebrated with a halftime induction ceremony as family, friends, former teammates and fans from the Sunflower state gathered to honor one of their own.
Nearly 7,000 fans were on hand to watch the double-overtime 89-80 victory by Kansas over Kansas State. And many of those came for the special ceremony that honored the former Lady Wildcat All-American and now assistant basketball coach with her alma mater.
Monty Marlin, current Sublette girls basketball coach and athletic director who was instrumental in nominating the former Lady Lark for consideration into the Hall, brought his entire 2013 SHS team to the ceremony.
Brooke Briggs, a freshman guard on the Lady Larks, grew up watching Lehning play and had the good fortune to be able to shoot some hoops with her when she herself was just a young girl.
Heidi Brown, currently a sophomore on the KSU roster, and a graduate from another small southwest Kansas school — Southwestern Heights — took in the celebration, as well.
Danielle Zanotti, a former teammate of Lehning's at Kansas State, and now director of basketball operations for the Lady Wildcats, helped produce the video that electrified the crowd at the halftime ceremony.
And there was Lehning's family — father Steve, mother Jane, sister Andrea and nieces and a nephew, all there to lend their support to one of Kansas' best all-around prep athletes in history.
"I saw her play from about the time she was 2 years old," Marlin recalled of watching Lehning in her formative years. "She just mixed right in there with the boys in the neighborhood. Played with them all the time. It was obvious early that she was gifted athletically."
Marlin, who coached the boys basketball team during Lehning's playing career, said he would have enjoyed the possibility of having her play on his team then.
"If I could have had her for two quarters, she would have helped us," Marlin said. "She just had that ability. Very few people are blessed with the God-given ability she's got. Combine that with her academics, and being a good citizen, that's a great combination."
For Briggs, she said she has taken the work ethic and team concept from Lehning and tried to integrate those qualities into her own game.
"A lot of assists and giving up the ball to another teammate," Briggs said of things she tries to emulate from Lehning. "I was able to shoot with her when I was really young. She's like one of my sisters. Coach Marlin just uses her as an example about hard work, always doing more. Never giving up, no matter what. You might not always get the win, but you can always do a lot."
Brown, a 2011 Heights graduate, said she was thrilled to have the opportunity to be mentored by Lehning after having watched her play when she was in junior high school.
"I have always been impressed with how much passion and desire she has for the game," Brown said. "She's amazing. She takes it onto the court, in every game, every play, giving 100 percent."
Brown says she gets to matchup with Lehning when going through scouting reports on upcoming opponents.
"No matter what it is, she's always gonna be a competitor out there," Brown said. "When she's on the scout team, she'll make a move, make a play, an amazing pass. Coach P (KSU head coach Deb Patterson) will say, 'yep, she's still got it.' She's such an inspiration and I'm glad to learn from her and getting to know how wonderful she is as a person. With her, it's about never giving up. Keep fighting, keep competing. Don't give up on yourself or your team."
Zanotti probably knows Lehning as well as anybody today, having been her roommate all four years of college and in the ensuing time afterward.
"She's one of the most determined, hard-working, competitive persons I've been around," Zanotti said. "She's a tremendous leader, and it's great to see how she's grown from being a coach on the floor to being a coach on the bench."
Zanotti aided in putting the video that was used for the induction ceremony and said even after having viewed it several times during production, it still sent chills through her.
"I just got goosebumps, it was so thrilling," Zanotti said. "I think the girls today played with that same sense of pride and work ethic. Shalee told them that they could walk out of the lockerroom with their heads held high."
For Lehning's family, it was just one more, perhaps final moment, for their daughter to be in the spotlight at Bramlage.
"This was one of the greatest days of our lives," said Steve Lehning. "It's the culmination of a great career for that young lady. She's made us the proudest parents in the world. Truly, it's a great honor to have this at K-State, amongst her K-State and Sublette family. It's such a great occasion."
Steve said that of all the special characteristics that his daughter posseses, a few things do stand out.
"She always gave 100 percent whether it was in volleyball, basketball or track," he said. "She gives the same kind of effort in how she treats people, too. As good as she's been in athletics, I think we're equally as proud, if not more so, of the type of person she's become."