Not since Heidi Gillingham Jackson, the 6-10 All American honored September 3 with induction into the Vanderbilt Hall of Fame have the Commodores fielded a player with this range. With the season kickoff in November, Vandy will suit up 6-4 Stephanie Holzer, 6-4 Clair Watkins, 6-3 Rebecca Silinski, 6-3 Tori Jarosz, 6-1 Hannah Tuomi and 6-0 Elan Brown and Tiffany Clarke. For a coaching staff that repeated the motto, "Height is overrated," in recent years, the sky's the limit. Height plus talent equals solid match-ups in the SEC and post-season, an equation that has fans antsy in anticipation.
Duke, Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas and Ole Miss took note of the center, who in her freshman year averaged double-doubles with 25 points per game, 12 rebounds and 7 blocks. She continued with 24 points, 12 rebounds, 12 blocks and six assists in her junior year. The Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year and Miss Basketball Finalist accomplished much in two years, having to sit out her senior year of high school with a stress fracture.
Even without adding to stats her senior year, schools continued to call the athlete who was ranked 59th in the nation by Scout. The die-hard Tennessee fan who played on the same AAU team with Glory Johnson had a change of heart when she visited the Vanderbilt campus. "I just fell in love with it," she said. "I knew this is where I needed to be, not UT, no matter how many people pressured me to go there. Everybody in my family is all about Tennessee but now they're all about Vanderbilt."
Team chemistry and a family-like atmosphere were important factors, in addition to the on-court tutoring by Assistant Coach Vicky Picott. "Coach Picott is one of the best post coaches in the world. I can't wait to work with her," Kayci said. It's not yet known if Kayci will join her teammates this season. "We'll see," she said, volunteering that another surgery may be needed.
She arrived on campus early this summer to continue physical therapy with teammates Jordan Coleman and Stephanie Holzer, both of whom have been cleared to play. "I've put a lot of time in on the exercise bike," she adds.
With the stress Kayci experiences to be an impact player, it's no wonder she is considering sports psychology as a major.
"There's a lot of pressure, but I have to step up and show everybody I can knock that pressure off. I just keep my head held high and show people what I can do."
In 2014 when Kayci and the rest of the freshmen class are seniors, Nashville will host the women's NCAA Final Four. The possibility of a Vanderbilt presence in the tournament championship is very real to a team ready to prove its mettle and move beyond last season's NCAA Second Round.
"I'm excited to get this season started. I have faith that we're going to be really good and I can't wait to hold the national championship trophy at the end," Kayci states. "It will happen," she says simply, no emphasis needed.
Jasmine Lister, Vandy's shortest player at 5-5, jokes with Kayci at a photo shoot.