Leaving college is never easy.
You’re not only leaving the place that you likely spent four years developing lasting relationships, but you're also advancing from childhood to adulthood. Most departing college seniors, however, can’t relate to what Kalani Brown just went through.
After a season in which the Baylor big saw her team lose only one game and roll through the competition in the NCAA tournament and be crowned national champions, it’s been quite the senior year. And nearly 72 hours after lifting the trophy in Tampa, she trekked to midtown Manhattan to hear her named called as the No. 7 pick by the L.A. Sparks in the 2019 WNBA Draft.
So you could say it’s been a long few days.
“The less sleep I’ve ever had but the most exciting week of my life,” Brown said. “It’s been a dream come true. A tiring dream come true. Coming off that national championship I was running on no sleep, it was a quick turnaround to come back here, but it was a dream come true.”
With training camp set to start in a couple of weeks and the WNBA season kicking off on May 24, Brown—and indeed everyone else that was drafted Wednesday night—have little time to adjust to an entirely different life, likely in a different city with people they’ve never played with.
But the exhaustion of the packed week will likely give way to excitement. Brown now has the opportunity to learn from two of the best “bigs” in the game, the virtually positionless Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike.
And with the frontcourt already crowded with players who can virtually score at will, Brown is left to do a couple of the things she did best in Waco: Defend and be a force inside.
“I think they need a post inside, presence-wise,” she said. “Candace can do both, they’re both mobile but they’ve never had a true five. So I’m definitely going to do what I can, rebounding, maybe scoring—but I doubt they need help with that. Whatever they need, I’m here for it.”
It will certainly be an interesting first year for new Sparks coach Derek Fisher, who will have plenty of frontcourt power—and with rumors of Liz Cambage awaiting a trade from Dallas to L.A., it could get even more stacked. While Brown hadn’t had much communication with Fisher ahead of the draft, her father—15-year NBA vet P.J. Brown—and he played against each other in the NBA, so she knows him a bit from growing up around the game.
It will be interesting to see how Fisher deploys his newest asset and what becomes of center Jantel Lavender, who played sparingly last season.
For now, none of that matters to Brown, who said the hardest part about leaving Baylor was leaving her “sisters” in the Lady Bears’ program, who she said were certainly watching as she walked across the stage after being drafted. But how is she going to celebrate after the most hectic and draining 72 hours of her life?
“Just be around my family and I don’t know,” Brown said. “When I get back to Waco, I know the girls are going to be excited so just celebrating with my sisters.”
With college in the rearview and two dreams already accomplished, the spotlight of L.A. beckons. And the future couldn’t be brighter for Kalani Brown.