It's been a long time coming...
Four former UC Santa Barbara athletes have achieved professional big league prominence in 2021-22, but none of them took an easy path to get there.
Kayte Christensen was drafted by the WNBA in 2002. When her playing career ended after five years, basketball was still in her blood and on her brain. She landed a broadcasting job as a sideline reporter and studio analyst with the Sacramento Kings, and the past season she became one of the few women to work as a live-action color commentator in the NBA.
Kristen Mann entered the WNBA in 2005, and after five years in the league, she went to Europe to prolong her career. She played for teams in France, Turkey, Latvia, Spain and Portugal. She also made time to finish her degree in 2012, completing her last class online. At age 38, she celebrated the 2022 EuroCup Women championship with the French club Tango Bourges Basket.
Dillon Tate was the fourth player chosen in the 2015 MLB draft, but baseball is a sport where “can’t-miss” prospects commonly go missing. He was traded twice and played for eight different minor league clubs before securing a place on the Baltimore Orioles’ pitching staff.
Gabe Vincent was undrafted by the NBA in 2018. Sacramento signed him to a contract but soon released him. The Miami Heat sent him to the G League, where he polished his game for three years, culminating in his becoming a full-time player with a two-year, $3.5 million contract.
Former UC Santa Barbara women’s basketball coach Mark French called it “the advantage of being a Gaucho.” Coming out of a mid-major collegiate program, he explained, “You don’t get things handed to you. One of the lessons you learn is persistence. Hang in there, and great things happen after lots and lots of hard work.”