This is the first part of a three part series regarding college basketball star Leticia Romero. In part one of Leticia (Leti) Romero’s journey from Spain to Florida State by way of Kansas State. Florida State Head Coach Sue Semrau talks about how Leti came on to FSU’s radar initially as well as the second time around. She goes on to discuss the waiver request and finishing up giving us her perspective of this talented point guard. Leti then begins with her journey from Spain to Kansas State.
*note: Thanks to Florida State for giving us unprecedented access to college sensation Leticia Romero.
Swish Appeal: How did Leti first come on to the Florida State radar when she was a high school player?
Sue Semrau: “She played for a club team in the Canary Islands. We were familiar with that club team because of Leonor Rodriguez [former FSU player]. So when we heard of her abilities, we started recruiting her.”
SA: So you recruited her out of high school but obviously did not get her at that point. She went to Kansas State. When did you get contacted and find out that you might have a second chance with her?
SS: “Well, it was after the coaching change. And certainly every coach that comes into a program wants an opportunity to be heard and try to recruit those players that are currently on the team to stay. And certainly most people [colleges on the outside] honor that. We assumed there would be a period of time where all of the players on the [KSU] team would make a decision [to stay or go].
“When we heard that Leti had made the decision to leave Kansas State, we were certainly interested in getting in touch with her but she could not get a release.”
SA: Yes, we will be asking her about that and that will be one of the focal points what we will be concentrating on. Finally, she did get a release and then what happened?
SS: “Then we were thrilled that we got it sent to us. We picked up the phone and started contacting. At that point she had already been to three junior colleges so she used three of her five visits. She ended up setting up one with us and one with Louisville. It was a very short time frame. She needed to get back to Spain in order to start practice with her national team. So we set up the [on campus] visit at that time.”
SA: Did she spend last summer there or here?
SS: “Definitely in Spain. She came on her visit and went back to Spain after she had gone to Louisville. She made her decision and then came for just a week during the summer to make sure she was enrolled in classes and had a place to live. She was actually with the national team in Spain through much of the month of September.”
SA: Was she taking online classes at that point? How did she keep abreast of what she had to do here?
SS: “She was taking some online classes but also a class on campus because there is a Homeland Security rule that you have to have at least one class that you are in that is physically on campus. So she worked with the professor and was able to make that happen.”
SA: What happened then with her getting eligible? I will ask her from her viewpoint as well. Explain the process of getting her eligible and then what happened.
SS: “Certainly there are exceptions to the rules. So we felt that it was important that we applied for a waiver so that she could play immediately. She put together with our compliance staff what we felt was a strong case and we submitted it to the NCAA. We felt like there were mitigating factors in her being subject to this rule. In December I got a phone call from our compliance people that she had been deemed immediately eligible.”
SA: Tell us from a coaching viewpoint what Leti brings to the court?
SS: “She is just so savvy of a point guard. She is in control not only that she has the skill set to be able to deliver the pass but be able to get by an opponent, to shoot it. With all of that, I think her experience internationally at the highest level, she brings that type of confidence to the floor whenever she is on it.”
SA: Being just a sophomore, what do you see the areas you would still like her to grow in?
SS: “I think in the US we have a very physical style of play, not that they don’t at the highest level in FIBA. She hasn’t played a lot at that level. So that the physicality was important. Her strength [improving] is involved in that. I think she needs to be more comfortable shooting the ball as she shoots a great percentage.”
“Defending and learning how to chase people off screens and do her work early. All of those things I think she will continue to get better and better at.”
With Leti Romero:
Swish Appeal: Leti, tell us where you are from , your family and if you have any other athletes in your family?
Leti Romero: “I’m from Spain in the Canary Islands. My dad and my brother were soccer players. There were no other basketball players in my family. It was all about soccer. I started playing basketball because there was no girls’ soccer team.”
SA: Is it still true there is no soccer for young girls over there?
LR: “In the capitol, really far from where I lived. In the small town where I lived the only sport for girls was basketball.”
SA: What made a Spanish player want to come to the USA for college & basketball?
LR: “It was a little bit of everything. When I was in high school I played club ball for three years. I knew I wanted to keep studying and get a degree. There were not many options in Spain to balance studies with basketball. The club ball league was not as it as it was five years before.
“My decision to come to the States was based on studies and also the possibility to learn English for me was an important thing if I wanted to play professionally somewhere else outside of Spain. You need to know English so all that came into play with the decision.”
SA: How did you come to hear about Kansas State (where you first went) and Florida State (your present school)?
LR: “I visited Kansas State and FSU too. I didn’t know much [about these schools]. I had to learn a lot in a very small period of time. I built relationships with assistant coaches and head coach at Kansas State. That was basically my decision [to go there].”
SA: You know you look like Shalee Lehning (former KSU assistant and former WNBA Atlanta Dream player). Has anyone ever told you that?
LR: “Yes. Some people have told me that.”
SA: How did Kansas State find out about you?
LR: “I’m not really sure but I know that in playing in some European championship the majority of the universities go and look [or at least scouts do]. I think there are scouts in Europe who send reports.”
SA: How did you find out about Florida State?
LR: There was a Spanish player playing here (Leonor Rodriguez) and I knew her. She played in the same club that I played in. I think they found out about me through her. I remember talking to her about FSU.
SA: She gave FSU a good recommendation?
SA: Why KSU over FSU?
LR: “It was a hard decision. I remember mainly because my English was not very good. Brooke [Wyckoff, Florida State Assistant Coach] was here and able to translate everything. The fact that there were two Spanish individuals at Kansas State helped a lot. There was a manager and a G.A. [grad assistant]. They traveled with us [KSU team] and for me was a support system.
“Also, I had so much fun there when I went. Also, the relationships I had Shalee [Lehning] that I still have. We still talk.”
SA: Are you still in touch with other former KSU coaches and teammates?
LR: “Yes, they know I love them. I am still in touch with Coach Patterson and Coach Ethridge [now Head Coach at Northern Colorado]. All three are at Northern Colorado.”