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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Viking to play basketball in Denmark

Kayla Bernsen fights for a layup. Bernsen will be playing professional basketball in Lemvig, Denmark. Photo by Caleb Galbreath

When Kayla Bernsen, spring 2016 graduate, gets asked what’s next for her, she’ll be able to say she is playing professional basketball in Denmark.

Bernsen will leave on August 15 to Denmark, where she will play for the Lemvig Basketball Women’s team.

Bernsen always wants to get better and is achieving her ultimate goal by continuing her basketball career abroad, she said.

“This is an incredible experience to be able to do this, and it’s just so fun for me to do what I still love, and go get paid for it,” she said. “If I can do this for a few more years, while my body can do it, that’s my biggest dream.”

Bernsen started at Western in the fall of 2011, graduated in spring 2016 and played center for Western’s women’s basketball team throughout that time. Her favorite parts of playing for Western was her teammates and the team atmosphere.

Carmen Dolfo, the women’s basketball head coach, said Bernsen was a hardworking, caring and fun person to have on the team.

“She was a great leader and played hard. She is an exceptional basketball player and person,” Dolfo said in an email.

In Denmark, Bernsen looks forward to being in another culture and coaching younger girls, she said. Her new team, Lemvig Basket, is part of the Dameligaen basketball league, the premier women’s basketball championship in Denmark.

“I’m so excited to start playing,” Bernsen said. “It’ll be a different style of basketball.”

Playing basketball at Western has completely changed her game, Bernsen said.

“I was not a good player when I first got here, I got kicked out of practice all the time,” she said.

Her coach and the program were tough, but rewarding. They taught her to work hard and be better every single day, Bernsen said.

“She has improved in every area of her game,” Dolfo said. “She has developed into a strong, passionate woman. She has worked very hard to get to this place so it is very deserving.”

During Bernsen’s collegiate career, the team made it to the regional tournament twice and to the Final Four once.

Bernsen’s biggest personal accomplishment was winning the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year award her senior season, she said.

“When I first came in I was horrible at defense,” Bernsen said.

Eventually, she ranked fourth in the nation for shot-blocking in the Division 2 league.

She encourages Western athletes to believe in themselves and keep going past all the obstacles because while she had a successful college basketball career, it wasn’t always easy.

“I tore my ACL before my junior year, and I just wasn’t that good of a person for awhile, I had a lot of school issues and I think it took me awhile to get to this point,” Bernsen said.

However, tearing her ACL was turned out to be a positive for her, Bernsen said. The rehab process was grueling, but it gave Bernsen a sense of motivation. She thought about what it meant to be a teammate and a player, and said she came back a better player.

“I wasn’t really thinking huge, I didn’t have a huge breakthrough, I just kept trying and putting one foot in front of the other, and that’s how I got to where I am,” Bernsen said.

It is not common, but not completely uncommon for Western athletes to play overseas said Sports Information Director Jeff Evans.

Western men’s basketball teams are more likely to have one player with the potential to play abroad, Evans said. It’s much rarer for the women’s team, he said.

“It is quite an accomplishment for [Bernsen] to pursue and be given this chance. Very deserved for a wonderful college career,” Evans said in an email.

Bernsen will play for Lemvig Basket until May 2016. While she doesn’t know what the future has in store for her abroad, Bernsen said she is excited for this new chapter in a successful basketball career.

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