Making the cut in the Women’s National Basketball Association would be a fantasy for most basketball players. Nothing tops the pro league.
Europe might be a waltz, and South America sparkles with sunshine in the winter, but the WNBA still takes the cream off the ice cream sundae. Only the best seniors who played Division I basketball can savor a whiff of the WNBA.
For Kayte Christensen, the goal of reaching the peak will no longer be a fantasy.
The former UCSB women’s basketball forward and 88 other college seniors from around the country participated in the WNBA pre-draft camp in Chicago April 12-13 jostling for attention from coaches, players and management of the professional squads. The four-round WNBA draft takes place in New York this Friday beginning at 8:30 a.m., Pacific time.
Christensen, a tireless worker in four years at Santa Barbara, claimed that the two-day workout was no walk on the beach.
“It was tiring. But it was a good two straight days of basketball,” said Christensen, the 2002 Big West Player of the Year. “There were a lot of drills and I played with a lot of different people. It’s long and difficult: nine in the morning till almost nine at night. It went really well.”
UCSB Associate Head Coach Cori Close followed Christensen to Chicago for a day and a half to help the Alturas, Calif. native better gauge the sentiments of attending WNBA coaches. Christensen felt confident about how she stacked up against other players at the camp.
“I have a feeling I might get a chance to slip into the second round,” she said.
When told that several mock drafts did not list her in the top two rounds, Christensen scoffed that they are based heavily on statistics.
“I played really good defense, and that is not a statistic,” Christensen said. “The league is strong right now and a lot of teams are looking for backup players and certain kinds of backups. A couple teams showed feedback and Cori told me about that.”
UCSB Head Coach Mark French agreed that Christensen’s tenacity on defense and rebounding possibly helped turn some eyes.
“Some teams are interested in drafting role players. Some kids don’t handle it well. One of the big pluses with Kayte is that she is such a solid kid, a solid person who’s going to work hard and practice hard. There’s a big upside to her game and she’s going to get better and better and better.”
According to French, at least three teams have shown interest in Christensen.
“Two or three teams in particular have shown interest,” French said. “Charlotte and Houston are interested. [Comet Head Coach] Van Chancellor talked to me personally at the Final Four. Recently, Sacramento has been asking about her.”
Former UCSB teammate Stacy Clinesmith plays point for the Sacramento Monarchs.
Though Christensen sustained a minor back injury that slowed her to “80-85 percent capability,” French said, she put a tourniquet on Tennessee All-American center and top prospect Michelle Snow.
“Kayte certainly had some great games. Kayte held Michelle Snow scoreless for a whole game,” French said.
All Christensen wants is to make the roster. From there, she know she grow into her niche.
“I’ll feel more confident once I get there,” she said. “It will be real difficult for a coach to cut me once I make the team. I’m not concerned about what round I go in, I just want to go.”