Erica Hallman can't wait to go home again, but first things first.
Hallman is a 5-foot-8 junior guard on Kansas University's women's basketball team who hails from Covington, Ky., and would be overjoyed to play against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky.
"I hear they're working on that," Hallman said with a smile. "I'd love that. I'd love to go home and play."
Hallman made a big splash during her senior year in high school in the Bluegrass State. She was the point guard on the Covington Holmes High team that finished No. 1 in the state coaches' poll. After averaging more than 21 points and six assists a game, Hallman was named Miss Kentucky Basketball in 2002.
At Kansas, she hasn't come close to making that kind of an impact, but she hasn't been completely healthy, either. Hallman suffered a partial ligament tear prior to her freshman year at KU in 2002-2003 and decided to go ahead play with a brace on the knee rather than undergo surgery.
In retrospect, that wasn't such a good idea.
"If somebody asked me today, I would say go ahead and take the time off," Hallman said. "Sometimes I wish I would have sat out and had a fifth year, but I was too excited as a freshman and wanted to play."
She played 29 games with the gimpy knee, averaging 7.8 points and a team-high 3.34 assists per game. After undergoing surgery following the season, Hallman's numbers and playing time declined slightly in 2003-2004.
Now with her damaged knee completely healed and with her commitment to new coach Bonnie Henrickson's structured conditioning program, Hallman appears on the verge of adding some college kudos to her high school headlines.
"I think I'm ready to go," she said. "The biggest thing is staying healthy."
Where Hallman may make her greatest impact is beyond the arc. A career 34.5 percent shooter from three-point range, she was the best distance shooter on the Big 12's worst long-range shooting team last year.
"I definitely think I'll be put in a position to score this year," Hallman said. "Three-point shooting is rhythm and confidence, and a matter of setting screens. Coach Bonnie is working on fundamentals so we can set good screens and make good passes."
Hallman is one of only a couple of handfuls of players remaining from the transition in coaches from Marian Washington to Henrickson. Four players with eligibility departed. The ones who stayed are circling the wagons.
"We have 10 players that want to be here, that's the most important thing," Hallman said. "The chemistry is really good."
For her part, Hallman says she never even considered pulling up stakes. As much as she would love to play in Kentucky, she vows she wants to do it in a Kansas uniform.
"I made the decision to come here," Hallman said. "I feel at home here. Once I make a decision, I'm going to stick with it. Once I was here, I was here. I stick it out."
Hallman stuck it out last season through the distractions of Washington's health problems and eventual retirement.
"It's been emotional sometimes," she said. "I've probably had more downs than ups, but I know it can't get worse. It's got to get better. That's how I look at it."
Without doubt, Hallman's glass is half-full, not half-empty.
"We have 10 people on our roster," she said, "but you only need five. As long we get in shape, we'll be fine. And I think we're in the best shape for this time of year that we've been in."
The KU women have exhibition games scheduled Tuesday against Fort Hays State and the following Tuesday against the California All-Stars. The regular season opener will be Nov. 21 against Texas-Arlington in Allen Fieldhouse.