Like A Rock: Pedersen A Steady Force For Stanford

By Michelle Smith

There is an argument to be made that no player in Stanford women's basketball history has ever done more for the program than Kayla Pedersen.

Pedersen has played more minutes than any Stanford player.

She has played in more games.

In four years, she has missed just one game, a concussion keeping her out of the lineup against DePaul last December.

And even with everything she's accomplished - a 63-0 record at home in her career, four All-Conference awards, Scholar-Athlete honors, and of course, four trips to the Final Four - she still wants more.

About the only thing that's left is a national championship.

"It is incredible to make it to the Final Four again, but at the same time, we are not satisfied," Pedersen said.

Heading into the final weekend of her college career, Pedersen ranks third on the team in scoring at 12.8 points a game. She's second in rebounding at 7.9 and second in assists with 119 - a career-high. She leads the team in free-throws made and defensive rebounds.

Pedersen, one of the Cardinal's tri-captains, is eight rebounds away from breaking the Pac-10 rebounding record set last year by her teammate Jayne Appel. And she was named a Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year for women's basketball.

In four years, Pedersen has played virtually every position on the floor for the Cardinal. She is one of the few players in the country equally comfortable on the block and beyond the three-point arc and she will long be remembered by Pac-10 women's basketball fans for her unflappable demeanor on the court.

"She has always been a mainstay for us," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said.

She has always been Stanford's calm in the storm, a quiet, but steadying presence on the floor. Even if it only looks that way on the outside.

"For the past couple of games I've been nervous and more anxious because it is my last hurrah," Pedersen said. "But going into the Final Four this year, we're experienced and that helps a lot. I'll be more focused on how the freshmen are going to be and their excitement and that will take away some of the pressure."

Pedersen's versatility on the floor will make her a top WNBA prospect when the league drafts just days after the Final Four on April 11. But Pedersen's value goes beyond statistics.

"When I think of Kayla, I just think tough, she's just tough," said Cal coach Joanne Boyle.

Pedersen has essentially played out of position for Stanford, as a 6-foot-4 small forward. She has hit shots on the wing, posted up smaller players inside when the Cardinal have a mismatch. She's a strong defender, and ranks second on the team in blocked shots and steals.

"Kayla is a true '4'," VanDerveer said.  "But if you want to win, you can't say 'I'm a '4'. We've needed her out there at the '3'. She doesn't always end up as our leading scorer, but she's steady. She's always got 12, 15, 17 points, and she's just very capable."

VanDerveer said Pedersen has always played beyond her years.

"Kayla was never a freshman. She was a senior when she was a freshman," VanDerveer said. "She is a rock. We've had players who have received accolades and attention this year, but Kayla had played the most minutes on our team."

Pedersen is a finalist for the Wade Trophy and Naismith Player of the Year.

But VanDerveer said she would like to see Pedersen be rewarded for "all the things she's given to our team."

Holding a trophy high above her head as the confetti falls from the rafters at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis would be a pretty good reward.

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