Kayla Pedersen: Unflappable and Versatile

Sophomore F Kayla Pedersen stepped right into the Stanford line-up last season as though she'd been there for ages and earned herself the honor of Pac-10 Freshman of the Year for 2008. And if you thought she was versatile last season, just wait.

Sophomore F Kayla Pedersen interviews like she plays basketball, economically with no fuss, no muss and a sly smile when something amuses her. Her composed court demeanor is one of the first things you notice about her play, well that and the silky, all-court scoring and tenacious rebounding. If you needed a Stanford player to calmly defuse a ticking bomb or hop into the pilot's seat to land an out-of-control 747, Pedersen would be an excellent choice. Pedersen, who was Stanford's third leading scorer (12.6 ppg) and second leading rebounder (8.4 rpg), was named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2008.

How was Pedersen able to integrate herself so well and so quickly as a freshman? It can't have been as easy as it looked.

"No, it wasn't. Of course there were some bad days. All my teammates really helped me. They expected that from me. I felt an obligation to produce nothing less than what they expected. It was pretty easy for the most part though, just because my teammates supported me."

What was the hardest thing to learn?

"Just transitioning into the college game. I'd say it's more intense, goes at a faster pace. You really have to take advantage of the shot opportunities that you do get."

Pedersen's role in the offense changed as the season went along. She began taking more mid-range and three-point shots.

"I think the coaches really wanted me to be a three-point threat as the year went on because teams were doubling Jayne (Appel) which left me wide open at the top of the key. I needed to hit that shot. So I just worked on that about halfway through the season and just went from there."

No big deal, just calmly add a new dimension to your game in the middle of your freshman season. Anyone can do that. What does Pedersen have up her sleeve for this season? What has her preparation been like?

"I've been doing a lot of guard skills, looking to move out to the perimeter – a lot of three-point shooting, a lot of dribbling. I still haven't forgotten my post moves and all that though. I'm working on an all-around, versatile game."

Is she looking forward to playing the "3" more?

"I am happy to play wherever the coach wants me. I just want to be on that floor. I don't know. I love playing the "3." I love playing the "4." It doesn't really matter much to me, just however I can help my team out. It does help that we have a lot of depth now in the post so that Jayne and I can be more aggressive. I'm looking forward to that."

Pedersen is an excellent and mobile rebounder. What are her keys when chasing rebounds?

"Just getting position, making sure I box out. I've found that when I'm the "3" player, like in practice, it's a lot easier to rebound when coming from the wing. I just attack the ball. If everybody boxes out it makes it a whole lot easier on me though."

What did she take from her trip to the Final Four as a frosh last season that she will apply to this year?

"The main thing I learned is that we can do it again. To get to the national championship game and lose like that is not a feeling I want to have again. So I think that just makes all the returners a lot hungrier to get there again. We're working a lot harder than I feel we did last year and we're a lot farther along now than we were early in the season last year, so it's very exciting. Candice really left our team with this sense of accomplishment and of how hard we need to work to get there again, and I don't think that anybody takes that lightly now. Not that we did last year, but everybody is just more together, having one common goal. We realize we can do it and how great of an accomplishment that would be."

What are Pedersen's thoughts on the difficult schedule, which may even surpass last season's monster?

"I think it is exciting. I love traveling and I love playing in big games. The bigger the game, the happier I am."

What coaches does she work with the most?

"I've really been thrown around with all the coaches. Amy (Tucker) and Bobbie (Kelsey) do our post series. Kate (Paye) does the guard stuff. Tara (VanDerveer) is just all around. But I do individual workouts with Kate and Amy, the mix of guard and post work."

What advice did she get from the coaches that enabled her to start out her Stanford career so strongly?

"The more versatile I can be, the better off our team will be. If I can play the "3" and the "4" we'll be that much better."

We have asked a few players about their goofiest teammates, but instead we asked who Pedersen considered to be the goofiest coach?

"Probably Kate. Bobbie has her goofy times though. But Kate is always doing something."

Towards the end of last season, Tara VanDerveer had this to say about Pedersen, "Kayla, I can get right up in her face. I need someone sometimes that I can express some of my frustration with some other things that might be happening on the court and Kayla sometimes…listens to me." It is a high compliment to be the player the coach can vent to without fear of causing a mental meltdown. What does Pedersen think about her "yellable" status?

"I don't take anything personally. I know she needs to yell at somebody. I'm happy to be there for her. Not that I like that but I'm pretty used to it. I can handle it so whatever helps her out."

What does Pedersen feel the team needs to focus on early in the season?

"I think the exhibition games serve us as a way to get our freshmen some experience, just getting them into the flow of the game. I think right now where we're at – we're doing great. Just keep doing what we're doing. Competition in practice is going to help us out a lot. I know that if I'm not producing, somebody is behind me ready to come in. So right now everything is going great, better than I had hoped. Everybody is adjusting really quickly. That's just scary to me because it's so exciting."

Kayla Pedersen obviously does not seem like the type to be easily scared. If Stanford scares her, as in scary good, we should all run screaming (with glee).

To view a slide show of Don Anderson's photos taken during this interview with Kayla Pedersen, click HERE.

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