April 16, 2021
Why the Indiana Fever drafted Kysre Gondrezick fourth overall
How the pick came to be and what it means for the Fever
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The Indiana Fever added seven players to their roster on Thursday night, drafting six players—the most of any team—and trading for another. The draft picks, however, came with an element of surprise.
The Fever’s first selection of the night, Kysre Gondrezick from West Virginia at fourth overall, was unexpected. The Next projected Gondrezick to fall to the second round and ESPN projected her as a third-rounder. The pick was so unanticipated, drawing gasps in some other WNBA team draft war rooms. Even the draftee herself was thrown off.
“I was surprised,” Gondrezick said. “But then I had to get to a place where I had to be able to give myself permission to pat myself on the back and say, ‘You know what, you did the work.’”
Gondrezick flew relatively under the radar among the 2021 prospects—she wasn’t invited to be part of ESPN’s draft day coverage or interviewed after she was selected, as most first-round picks have been in years past. Instead, she hosted her own viewing party and documented her and her mother’s reactions on Instagram.
“I wasn’t on ESPN, I wasn’t one of the invites, but that’s what makes me, me,” she said. “That’s what makes me work even harder.”
Fever general manager Tamika Catchings defended the pick, saying she sought out certain qualities in prospects that may not have been obvious to media or fans.
“I feel like one of the things that we have done a great job with our coaching staff [is] we studied what we needed,” Catchings said. “We looked at the players that would bring us the qualities and the skillset that we needed and that we wanted, championship mentality being one of the most important parts of it.
“I feel like the right players get selected to the right teams, and Kysre’s the right player for our team.”
Originally from Benton Harbor, Michigan, Gondrezick is eager to return to the Midwest so her family can attend more of her games. She was attracted to the Fever after speaking with Catchings and Stanley prior to the draft and learning more about the culture that they’re looking to instill.
“I just felt something with Indiana,” Gondrezick said. “When I did my Zoom call with them, the interaction was very transparent and genuine. I felt like I could be myself and they gravitated towards that.”
“[She’s] somebody that wants to be in Indy,” Catchings added. “Not to say that nobody else wanted to be here, but definitely—and you could tell when we had the phone call with her afterwards—she was excited.”
Gondrezick is aware that the Fever have lacked success in recent seasons, failing to reach the playoffs since 2016. She’s eager to be part of a group that has the opportunity to get the franchise back on track.
“I’m a winner. I’m excited to be coming home and have my shining moment,” she said. “Being a part of Indiana, I’m so excited for the future and what it has to offer.”
Gondrezick, a 5’9 combo guard, spent one year at the University of Michigan before transferring to West Virginia. She had an extremely successful college career overall, averaging 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists over her four seasons.
Though primarily a shooting guard, Gondrezick spent more time running the offense for the Mountaineers last season after starting point guard Madisen Smith missed time with a leg injury. What followed was her most successful collegiate season, posting 19.5 points and 4.5 assists per game.
“One of the great things about Kysre is that she can play the two, the one, and if we need to bump her to the three, I’m sure she could figure that out as well,” Catchings said. “In watching Kysre, you will see a player that will continue to develop, get better and figure out what her role is and where’s she at her best with our team.”
The Fever are already deep at guard, with Tiffany Mitchell, Kelsey Mitchell, Kathleen Doyle, Lindsay Allen, Julie Allemand, Victoria Vivians and the newly acquired Danielle Robinson all on the roster for 2021. Catchings, however, envisions less adherence to traditional one-through-five positions in the upcoming season, instead leveraging her players’ athleticism to play more up-tempo.
“One of the things that we really want to look out is positionless basketball from the guard standpoint, being able to run Coach Stanley’s style,” Catchings said. “I think with our post game … it doesn’t really matter who our point guard is.”
Other draft day action
The Fever also made a draft day trade, sending Kennedy Burke to the Seattle Storm in exchange for the rights to the 11th overall pick, Aaliyah Wilson from Texas A&M. Wilson, who finished fourth in the SEC with 1.8 steals per game, will help Indiana improve its league-worst defensive metrics from a season ago.
“Coming in from Texas A&M, [I] can’t say enough about [Wilson’s] defensive tenacity,” Catchings said. “Another player that can score; that can play the one, the two, the three; [that] can fill in different positions.”
Indiana rounded out the night by selecting Unique Thompson from Auburn at No. 9, Arizona’s Trinity Baptiste at No. 24, Tennessee-Martin’s Chelsey Perry at No. 26, Florencia Chagas from Argentina at No. 31 and Georgia’s Maya Caldwell at No. 33.
As she concluded her second draft as general manager, Catchings recalled her own emotions after being selected by the Fever third overall in 2001. One piece of advice she’d offer all of the night’s selections?
“Enjoy the process, enjoy the journey,” she said. “In college, you’re guaranteed four years. In the pros, you’re guaranteed one day, so every single day needs to be your best day.”