MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — It started in the rubble of a basketball season wasted. The COVID-19 pandemic was raging across the world and what had been the college basketball season screeched to a halt with post-season NCAA tournaments cancelled.
Kysre Gondrezick’s first full year with West Virginia had not been what she had imagined it would be when she transferred from Michigan a couple of years earlier, even though she had averaged 15.3 points a game and contributed 82 assists.
She turned at that time to the person she always turned to, her father, Grant, a former NBA player.
“The day after the last season, my dad said to me, ‘You got an All-American season ahead. Top 5 draft pick. We’ve got to get to work.’”
Gondrezick remembered that moment on Thursday when she stunned the women’s basketball world by being chosen as the No. 4 pick in the WNBA draft by the Indiana Fever, a selection her father foresaw before the season but could not see after it.
It had been a tumultuous year for Gondrezick and her Mountaineer teammates with COVID-19 turning the season into a day-to-day affair, never knowing who would be available, never knowing whether or not the next game would be played. Toss in the normal number of injuries that WVU always suffers from and Gondrezick had to move from the shooting guard position to the point and you know it was crazy.
Then, at the end of the first week of January, her father unexpectedly died at age 57.
That’s what made the moment so special when she was drafted ahead of all expectations ... except his.
“I’m looking at him like he’s crazy, right,” she said of that conversation on the last day of the previous season
“It’s funny how everything he said is manifested in this very moment,” she said during her press conference following the draft. “It’s unfortunate he’s not here to share it with now, but he’s up there looking down on it. I’m completely humbled. Don’t tell me hard work doesn’t pay off.”
Think of what he said. All-American? She was named honorable mention.
And Top 5 pick? Those who doing mock drafts right up to the day the selections were made had her penciled in as a third-round pick, but then aren’t those who do such things really scam artists for they know not what is in the minds of those making the picks and have no control on trades and the like that can alter an entire draft.
Listen to Tamika Catchings, the Hall of Fame player out of Tennessee who had a long WNBA playing career and now is the general manager who made the pick.
“We have a lot of people who do mock drafts,” she said after the draft. “As you get closer to the draft you get different people who chime in on what a team needs. We have great people who do that. We studied what we needed. We picked the player that best fit that for our team.
“Not to go against the people who do the mock drafts, but I feel like the right players get selected to the right teams. Kysre was the right player for us. She will do whatever it takes to be a part of the Indiana organization.”
She did whatever it took to become part of it, going back to her talk with her dad.
She took it quite seriously when he said it was time to get back to work and lost 45 pounds, changing the way she looked and the way she felt about herself.
She looked the No. 4 pick in the draft.
“I have to tap myself on the back and realize I did the work. The fact that Indiana took a chance on me will make me go even harder. For me, you just don’t know what it means. I’ve been through a lot of adversity where people counted me out.”
They gave me the opportunity. I’m going to go at with relentlessness with my team to make sure that in Indiana people can say, ‘Yeah, we did it. We got her. We got that Fever.”
Gondrezick came out of Benton Harbor, Mich., where she was Miss Basketball, but she maintains nothing has been easy and offers advice to those who wish to listen.
“I said if I can make it out of Benton Harbor, I can make it anywhere,” she said. “For any girl, never give up on yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do anything.”
To Gondrezick, every day is a new experience.
“I understand that life is a process. You have to fall in love with the journey,” she said.
The journey took her from Benton Harbor to the University of Michigan, mostly to be near her parents.
But she knew she had to experience being out on her own and transferred to WVU.
“I made the decision to leave.. i wanted to grow up more, not from a basketball standpoint but as a young lady,” Gondrezick explained. “Getting away from home, figuring out things on my own, which I did. I found another home in West Virginia that has prepared me for this level not only in basketball but in other ways as well. God works in mysterious ways. He put me on a path to grow up just to be able to come back home.”
The Fever are just a three-hour drive from her Michigan home and she expects that will help the attendance .. but not as much as West Virginia and its basketball program helped her.
“I wish I had more professional words so it would be easier for you guys to put it in writing. This is amazing. I want to be a voice and advocate for West Virginia, coach Carey and his staff. They let me be myself and to make the adjustment so I could get to this point,” Gondrezick said.
“Now I have to start over. It begins tomorrow.”