The Minnesota women's basketball team welcomes six newcomers to the team for the 2020-21 season and GopherSports.com will sit down with each of them to get to know them better. Up next, it's Kayla Mershon.
Up next, it's Kayla Mershon, a transfer who spent her first two seasons at the University of Nebraska. A 6'3 forward from Minnetonka, Minn., Mershon played in all 60 games with 15 starts in her two seasons with the Huskers, averaging 2.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in 14.6 minutes of action per contest while shooting 35.8 percent from the floor and 30.0 percent on 3-pointers.
GopherSports.com: What was the process like for you once you decided to transfer?
Kayla Mershon: "It was crazy because quarantine had just started. A lot of coaches called me, but when I talked to Coach Whalen I had the most in common with her. We had the same mentality about how we see basketball and also me being from Minnesota, I was fangirling over her a little bit because I used to watch her all the time. I thought 'this is crazy that I'm talking to such a high-level player of the game,' so that was a great start. I had a Zoom call with the staff, and they had a presentation for me and I just knew that it was right. I committed on the spot and it was really special with my family and the coaches on Zoom; we all celebrated together."
GS: Aside from your connection with the staff, were there any other reasons you chose Minnesota?
KM: "I have family here, and honestly, in Minnesota I've had a lot of great memories. I won the state title my sophomore year on the Gophers' court and growing up watching women's basketball there, I knew what kind of role model I could be. It just felt right."
GS: So did you go to Gophers' games or camps growing up?
KM: "Yes, I did. I think from seventh or eighth grade up I watched them and cheered for them. I always thought it was super cool, and it's kind of a surreal thing that now I get to play on that court every home game."
GS: You played against Minnesota three times while at Nebraska. What do you remember about those games?
KM: "I remember they were always very close games; they were a really good team. I was always excited to see Coach Whalen. I've just seen the team progress over the years and how they came together, even through adverse times. I knew I wanted to be a part of this rebuild and try to help them win a championship."Playing for Nebraska, Kayla Mershon (44)
pulls down a rebound against the Gophers
on Jan. 30, 2020.
GS: For fans haven't seen you play, how would you describe your game?
KM: "I would describe myself as a really hard worker with a good basketball IQ. And I'll do the little things for my teammates, which people may not realize, like getting a defensive stop or making the extra pass. But hopefully with this staff I'll gain even more skills. For a power forward, I can shoot the three or post up, which I think is good for the Big Ten with mismatches."
GS: What have been your initial impressions of practicing and being around your new teammates?
KM: "So far it's been great; I've clicked with all the girls so far. I really enjoy the coaches' mentality of how they're facing this coronavirus and how they've brought us back in slowly and being smart about it. I've connected with all the coaches super well. I'm just excited to keep getting better with these coaches and getting to know them more."
GS: Obviously COVID has altered just about everything in the country. What have you been able to do to keep your game up?
KM: "When we had voluntary workouts I would just try to bring it every day because what this virus has made me realize is that anything can change in an instant. I think the biggest thing with me redshirting this year is to really work on my bond with my teammates, be able to push them and make them better and help the freshmen who are trying to get used to this level."
GS: You're new to the program but not college, so you can still help those freshmen there. Do you find yourself embracing that role?
KM: "Yeah, I've embraced that role and it definitely does give me a leg up that I have played in the Big Ten prior to this so I do have an idea of what this level takes and how to help the younger girls. If they have questions I can tell them my experiences and, it might be different with the Gophers, but those experiences have helped make me who I am today. I really enjoy that role and I always want to help my teammates and make them feel as comfortable as possible."
GS: Is there any significance to the No. 15 jersey you're going to wear at Minnesota?
KM: "That was my high school number, and it's been my favorite number. I had to change it for Nebraska, so I'm actually really excited to go back to 15."
Off the Court with Kayla
Favorite Food: Depends on the day, but pasta and sushi are my top two
Favorite TV Show: There are so many but during quarantine Outer Banks was one of my favorite shows to watch
Twitter/Instagram/TikTok or Snapchat: Instagram for posting, but I think I like watching TikTok the most
Favorite WNBA player: Rebekkah Brunson
Favorite Basketball moment of your career: The foreign trip I took with Nebraska to Italy and Spain was a really fun experience