It’s only a couple of days in to the new year and Red Mountain girls basketball standout Kayla Pedersen is eager for a fresh start.
Why on earth would the 6-foot-4 junior, who can play any spot on the floor, want to start over?
She’s got the top colleges in the country tripping over their Nikes trying to secure her for their program for 2007-08.
She owns or will own many of Red Mountain's single-season and career scoring and rebounding records before this season is over.
She carries a 4.37 grade-point average, which places her ninth in a class of 817 students. And in her 2 1/2-year varsity career for the Mountain Lions, she is averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds a game.
A fresh start?
"The last couple weeks were really stressful," Pedersen said. "We had finals, we had two tournaments and I got sick during the last one. A lot of our team got sick or is just getting over being sick. I'm looking at now as a new start. I want to dominate in grades and in basketball."
Pedersen is the most sought-after girls basketball player ever to play for a Mesa high school. She is on pace to be among the top-10 players ever recruited from Arizona when she does commit.
After two years of scrutiny by recruiters, Pedersen recently narrowed her list to 10 (Arizona State, Duke, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Tennessee and Texas). She doesn't anticipate announcing a decision early.
‘‘The people I've talked to say to make sure to take all the official visits I can,’’ Pedersen said. ‘‘I'm going to apply to schools later (this year). I'll definitely wait until my senior year to decide.’’
Red Mountain coach Martin Appel is enjoying Pedersen's journey and counts himself privileged to see her game on a daily basis — along with the who's who of women's college coaches who parade through his practices and games. Pedersen's gaudy numbers are eye-catching, but what strikes many suitors is her unselfish play.
‘‘She could score 30 or 40 points a game if she was a selfish player,’’ Appel said. ‘‘I think what makes her even more attractive to coaches is they can see she can be a workhorse or blend in with the rest of a group.’’
Seems only right Pedersen, who lives in Fountain Hills, should take as long as she needs to make a decision. Her basketball career has been a long haul with club basketball beginning at age 8.
Her father Gary is a former college player. Her mother Kelli was a high school player. A younger brother is working his way up through the hoop ranks. Playing never gets old.
‘‘Sometimes, physically I'll get worn out,’’ Pedersen said, ‘‘but not mentally.’’
Pedersen posted another big game Thursday against Desert Ridge, scoring a school-record 47 points, just three shy of the 5A state mark set by Tucson Santa Rita's Paula Pyers in 1983. She also pulled down 17 rebounds in just 20 minutes of playing time as the Mountain Lions trounced the Jaguars 104-18.
Pedersen was bothered by a minor ankle injury early in the season and a viral infection that sidelined her for three games last week in the Bay Area at the West Coast Jamboree. But the downtime has helped.
‘‘I saw things I hadn't noticed before — who wasn't taking shots when they had them, seeing passing lanes," she said. "I learned from it.’’
Gilbert coach Tom Bunger, who coached at Mountain View and saw Pedersen at least three times each of her freshman and sophomore seasons, likens her to recent East Valley standout Nicole Powell, who played at Mountain Pointe, then Stanford and is now with the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs.
‘‘They both have that inside-outside ability," Bunger said. “That makes players of their caliber tough to defend.’’
Highland coach Miner Webster faced Pedersen last month with the usual array of high-profile coaches in attendance.
‘‘I know that everybody wants her and there's a lot to like,’’ Webster said. ‘‘She hasn't come close to her ceiling yet. I know she's a hard worker. If she gets stronger, she can be the caliber player of a Nicole Powell. She has skills to play several spots.’’
Illness and injury have allowed Pedersen to get all kinds of opportunities in practice lately. On Tuesday, she played point much of the workout. Wednesday, she figured her time would be spent at wing and the post. Where she plays doesn't matter.
‘‘I like all of it,’’ Pedersen said. ‘‘For our team right now the most important thing is chemistry — seeing and knowing what each other has to offer.’’
Everyone has a good idea of what Pedersen has to offer. And the offers will keep coming.