Photo from Chris Donahue
When junior Kayla Person first arrived at Drake she was not asked to be a focal point in the offense. Back then, she was a defensive specialist who stood out by her impressive physique. At 5-foot-7, no one lifts more in the weight room than the chiseled Person.
But with the departure of Kristin Turk, Person is going to be asked to fill part of the offensive void.
“Kayla (Person) has definitely put in her time in the offseason,” senior Amber Wollschlager said. “Shooting by herself, shooting on the gun and it definitely shows in her game. Her pull-up jump shot has improved a lot.”
In her freshman year, Person averaged 3.5 points per game. Last season, Person increased her scoring to 5.8 points per game. With the time that Person has invested in the offensive end, she’s ready to take on a bigger load.
“Oh, my gosh. I would have to say I spent at least five hours extra this summer shooting on the gun, working on my outside shot,” Person said. “As a player, when it came to game situations, it should hurt when people double-off of you. My freshman year they did that a lot. I was like, ‘I’ve got to make a change.’”
Head coach Amy Stephens said she believes that Person might be the third scorer the team sorely needs.
“We’ll look for Kayla Person to step up, especially on the offensive end,” Stephens said. “That helped create some balance last year, and she might be the third key to our team this year.”
Person was recruited by Drake to play as a shooting guard, but injuries to redshirt junior Brittnye McSparron forced her to adjust and play the point guard position.
“I’m so excited to have Brittnye (McSparron) back because I’m playing more in my element now,” Person said. “I’m in attack mode from the wing. I feel a lot more comfortable.”
The Missouri native has continued to grow into her own on the offensive side of the ball, but what has also garnered attention from her teammates is how competitive Person is.
“Kayla definitely has the competitive heart in our team,” Hackbarth said. “She hates to lose, and she shows it by being in the gym and shooting on her own.”
Wollschlager recalled a game against Iowa State two years ago in which Person was asked to step up to the free throw line late in the game.
“She was almost crying,” Wollschlager said. “She was so scared in the end of the game, but now she wants to be there. That’s one of the coolest things as a teammate. Someone changes from being scared and terrified that they are going to miss to wanting to be on the free throw line.”
For a player who has earned 46 starts in the last two seasons, Person knows that as an upperclassman she needs to continue to be a leader on this team.
“I’m not afraid to tell people how it is. I think that’s one thing that my teammates admire about me, my ability to be so upfront with my team because I care about them a lot,” Person said.
The Bulldogs will need everything they can get from Person this year, and if they have plans of making a run in the MVC, Person will surely set the tone.