Kayla Pedersen - The Next 'Larry Bird' For The Tulsa Shock?

Tulsa Shock coach Nolan Richardson has high praise for Kayla Pedersen, who he selected 7th overall in the 2011 WNBA Draft. Photo by Craig Bennett/112575 Media.

In a week where Liz Cambage is hobnobbing with playoff-bound Kevin Durant, Kayla Pedersen isn't grabbing headlines yet.

But in another month, don't be surprised to see Pedersen's name sharing the Tulsa Shock headlines. Pedersen, the seventh pick in this season's WNBA draft, has the potential to be a household name - just like Larry Bird.

What, you ask? Well she's starting her professional career with some high praise and a lofty comparison from the man who will direct her on the floor.

"I love Pedersen," Tulsa Shock GM and head coach Nolan Richardson said. "You know one of my favorite players of all times was Larry Bird, and he did all the little things that people don't really see. And that's what I saw in Pedersen.

"She's 6-4, she can play out on the floor, she can play inside, she can run the floor, and I call those kind of players a fix-it player. She can fix things that break down. You just don't see the talent that this lady has."

 

She'll have plenty of opportunities to prove her fix-it abilities with a team that led the league last year in losses. For Pederson, her pure versatility and ability to play any position on the court at any given time will be a fix in itself.

She was quiet when she came on the screen as she was conferenced-in to the draft-day party hosted by the Shock.

"[The skills I will bring to Tulsa is] I think just a hard work ethic and my versatility," Pedersen said with a smile. "I'm going to be a great teammate and perform my role."

A hard work ethic is exactly what she put in during her four seasons at Stanford. She started all but one game for the Cardinal in her career. She broke the Pac-10 rebounding record in her final night against the eventual champions from Texas A&M. Pedersen blossomed into a key cog in Tara VanDerveer's program that has been a Final Four mainstay.

Her exceptional play had an opportunity to get lost on a team with the Ogwumike sisters and fellow draftee Jeanette Pohlen. But that's not to say that her game is silent or her role small. Pedersen ended her high school days as a McDonald's all-American and ended her time for the Tree as a two-time all-American honoree, among other conference awards and accolades.

In Nate Parham's draft analysis of which teams got the most value for their picks, he suggests that potentially the "best all-around collegian in the draft" could prove to be productive in the Tulsa system. More lofty words for a player in a draft class that includes the likes of Maya Moore and Pedersen's new teammate Liz Cambage.

If a player like Baylor's Melissa Jones was the ultimate college glue player - the second-most valuable player on Baylor statistically despite less fanfare than she deserved - then Pedersen has a good chance to become that in the pros. There is very little the 6'4" Pedersen can't do on the court offensively or defensively. Against Texas A&M in the Final Four, she did everything from bringing the ball upcourt against the Aggies' pressure defense to blocking shots under the basket to setting up Nneka Ogwumike in the post.

Richardson went to Bristol with a plan and he executed that plan exactly as it was written.

"To tell you the truth to be able to get Cambage and Kayla, which is what I came here to try to do - it was rewarding to make sure that those two players, that we were able to get those two players," Richardson said. "If you look at the pieces that I came after, it was the first time that I had the opportunity to try to get the kind of players that I would need to play in the system that I try to teach."

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