All great stories must eventually end, but for Kayte Christensen, another chapter in her book is about to be written.
The decorated UCSB basketball star and the newest selection of the Phoenix Mercury will leave today for a player orientation in Chicago. From Chicago, Christensen will leave for the Valley of the Sun on Saturday night or Sunday morning, where the Alturas native will take a physical. Phoenix’s training camp will begin the following day on April 29.
Though Christensen and the Gaucho coaching staff knew she would be drafted, they had no idea Mercury Head Coach Cynthia Cooper would pluck her with the 40th overall choice in the third round of last Friday’s WNBA draft.
“Obviously, it’s wonderful that I got drafted,” Christensen said on Sunday. “They see something in me. Making the team is still something that’s not certain. I have to go and try out.”
UCSB Head Coach Mark French was surprised at the Mercury’s selection.
“We weren’t surprised Kayte was drafted,” he said. “The fact that she got drafted by Phoenix was a surprise.”
If Christensen, who was slightly hindered by a back ailment during the pre-draft camp two weeks ago in Chicago, can show Cooper and her staff the incessant drive that made her successful in Santa Barbara, then Christensen will survive the final roster cuts.
“All three players Phoenix drafted are forwards,” French said. “They view that as a need and something to shore up. That’s a good sign because sometimes a team takes the most athletic player. Kayte rebounds really well and she plays great defense, and teams at all levels need that.”
Mercury forward Brandy Reed and center Rankica Sarenac are currently under suspension by the squad. Phoenix star forward Jennifer Gillom will turn 38 during the season. Gillom, a five-year WNBA veteran, paced Phoenix with 12.3 points per game. Phoenix also drafted forwards Tootie Shaw and Amba Kongolo.
The Mercury staff knows the damage Christensen can inflict.
“They saw her in Arizona when she went 16-17 against Arizona,” French said. “She generally thrashed their All-Pac-10 first teamer, who was picked later in the draft. It was a fine game for them to see Kayte. She should perform well in the state of Arizona, if you use that game as an example.”
Christensen scorched UA with 34 points, 11 boards and four steals in a scintillating 33-minute showcase. And the Mercury definitely noticed.
“At pick 40 she was the best player available, in my opinion, and she was the best post available,” Cooper said.
Wildcat forward Elizabeth Pickney, who attempted to guard Christensen on Jan. 14, was nabbed 60th overall by the Sacramento Monarchs.
For Christensen, making the cut and finding little ways to contribute in her first season will help solidify her role and presence in the WNBA for years to come.
“I hope I’m what Phoenix wants,” Christensen said.