Gondrezick on defense, branding and breaking the mold: “Basketball is what I do. It doesn’t define who I am.”

Gold and Blue Nation

The head coach of the Indiana Fever is challenging her team to play better defense this season. Kysre Gondrezick knows all about that. 

Gondrezick, a former Mountaineer who became the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft, is in the midst of her first preseason with the Fever. As the club approaches the start of a new campaign, second-year coach Marianne Stanley is emphasizing defense. 

“Each and every player on this team needs to buy in to the defensive end of the floor and make sure they’re doing everything they can to improve and make us a team that is stingy on defense,” Stanley said. 

That’s a familiar message to Gondrezick, who finished second on the WVU roster and top 10 in the Big 12 in steals as a senior. She thinks Stanley’s philosophy is very similar to that of West Virginia coach Mike Carey, who preaches his “physical for 40” slogan to every player that passes through his program. 

“That’s just something that, me personally, I try to place an emphasis on,” Gondrezick said. “Coach Carey, being under the instruction of him at West Virginia, that’s one of the things that he took very personal, as well as I did. They kind of have the same coaching styles and philosophies, so it’s kind of good for me to get into the system where it’s very familiar.” 

But even though the Big 12 has been loaded with talent in recent years — and even produced the top overall pick in the 2021 draft in Charli Collier of Texas — defending in the WNBA will be much more challenging than defending at WVU.

“It’s very hard,” Gondrezick said. “Everyone’s a threat. There’s not a weak link on the floor. Everyone in this league is just as capable as the next man up.” 

Still, Stanley likes the way Gondrezick is transitioning and meshing with the squad.

“She’s shooting the ball well. She’s fitting in with her teammates,” Stanley said. “Just getting adjusted to the rigors. Just about as we expected. She’s a pretty well-rounded guard, and we really like what we’re seeing in her.” 

Gondrezick is already making some noise off the court, too. She recently signed a shoe deal with Adidas, and according to ESPN reporter Nick DePaula, she is expected to become one of the faces of the next generation of the brand’s basketball venture. 

As Gondrezick continues to compete for playing time as a rookie, she’s also focusing on off-the-court goals that revolve around that partnership with Adidas. 

“The branding and marketing piece, I feel like that needs to be just as important, as well as us competing on the floor,” Gondrezick said. “People want to pay attention, so when you give them something to pay attention to, and you promote yourself — much bigger than you, you’re promoting your brand, your organization — people take notice of that. Who doesn’t want to see a woman in her best self on a magazine cover, in stores everywhere? Who said that they can’t? That’s kind of the narrative I’m trying to change.

“I understand that basketball is the most important thing, of course, but basketball is what I do. It doesn’t define who I am.” 

The Fever will begin a new season May 14 vs. the New York Liberty. Watch Gondrezick’s media day interview at the top of this page. 

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