In the Dog Days of Summer, when talk about college sports surrounds NCAA violations and premature speculation about the upcoming seasons, it’s easy to lose track of the professional sporting league in which Stanford alumni leave the biggest mark: the WNBA. With the sweltering heat of this summer in particular and the flurry of news coming from football following the resolution of the NFL labor negotiations, professional women’s basketball fights an even greater battle to get covered in the press and win the attention and support of casual fans.
So it warrants mention that two of the most important players for Stanford over the last four years, Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen, are enjoying productive starts to their careers in the pros. Pedersen, who the Tulsa Shock selected with the #7 pick in April’s WNBA Draft, has been thrown into action early and often, garnering an average of just over 30 minutes per game through 18 contests so far this year, 15 of which she’s started. Playing beside fellow frontcourt rookie and Australian import Elizabeth Cambage, Pedersen is averaging 9.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Those numbers are among the very best for rookies in the WNBA this season; July Rookie of the Month Maya Moore has put up 13.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 28.8 mpg.
Pohlen has had fewer opportunities to get on the floor for the Indiana Fever, but has made significant contributions to the best team in the Eastern Conference. In playing in all 20 of the Fever’s game thus far, Pohlen has turned 19 minutes per game into a 5.2 ppg average while making 51% of her shots from behind the 3-point arc. She’s also had the chance to learn from two of the league’s best veterans, Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas, both of whom possess similar size as Pohlen.
And besides the veteran mentorship, Pohlen will likely get deep playoff experience in her rookie year, provided that the front-running Fever can keep the #1 seed through the final 15 games of the regular season. That journey will continue this Friday, when Indiana visits Tulsa and Pedersen at the BOK Center.