Connecticut Sun forward Kayla Pedersen knew she would be retiring from the WNBA before the end of the 2017 season.
She made sure to savor every moment.
“It was amazing,” Pedersen said of her experience with the Connecticut Sun last summer. “It was probably the closest team I’ve been on in the WNBA. The organization, the office, everybody was so supportive of me and I felt like I had a clear, positive role on the team and just enjoyed it. It was a blast.”
In her sixth WNBA season, Pedersen appeared in 26 games for Connecticut, providing a steady veteran presence in the frontcourt. The 6-foot-4 forward collected her 500th career rebound and 600th career point last summer, and was a key veteran contributor on a young team that finished 21-13, making the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
But even as she was enjoying the season, Pedersen came to believe it was time for a change.
“I took a hiatus (from the WNBA) in 2016, just to feel out my options, take a little break and experience normal life,” said Pedersen, who did some traveling, spent time with her family in Arizona and also shadowed a pastor during that break from the WNBA. “I came back to the league and absolutely loved last year in Connecticut. But I felt God had a different plan for me and it was time to move away from that and pursue other off-court opportunities as far as ministry goes.”
Because Pedersen was not with the Sun in 2016, she had never played for Sun Head Coach and General Manager Curt Miller. It did not take long for them to mesh.
“I can’t say enough good things about Kayla on and off the court,” Miller said. “She had a terrific 2017 season for the Sun and played a valuable role off the bench. Kayla is an underrated defender. She was the Defensive Player of the Year in Australia this past season, and provided us with veteran toughness throughout the season. Kayla prepares like a true professional and does all the dirty work on the court. Off the court, she is a great teammate and positive presence in the locker room.”
Miller’s recognition of the many subtle contributions Pedersen made to the team resonated with her.
“I just really value that he values that,” said Pedersen. “It seemed like he valued the little things, defense and the dirty work on the floor, but then also the positivity off the floor too.”
Pedersen was also impressed by the culture Miller established in Connecticut, where the Sun have bonded in the locker room and on the floor.
“I had a lot of good conversations with Curt as far as locker room culture goes,” Pedersen said. “Even when I notified him that I would be leaving, just talking about who he could bring into the locker room who would be that positive influence.”
That veteran input was invaluable to Miller.
“While we will certainly miss her in the upcoming season, I am happy and proud that she is following her passion away from the WNBA,” he said. “Kayla has a bright future and I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach her. We wish her tremendous success and will always consider her part of the Connecticut Sun family.”
Pedersen will continue playing overseas, and she is excited about the new direction in her life. She is also thankful for what she experienced last season in Connecticut.
“I remember my last game in Phoenix, it was really special to me just to play in front of my whole family,” she said. “I kind of knew this was going to be the end…A big life change is always hard, but I knew it was the right thing. I knew it was where I’m supposed to be and I’m just so grateful that I had six great years in the WNBA and it ended on an awesome team.”