RALEIGH, N.C. – Pro wrestler Kayden Carter spends her Mondays body slamming opponents on WWE Raw.
But there was a time when she dribbled past defenders on the basketball court. From 2010 to 2012, Carter was a stellar point guard for the Shaw Lady Bears. Fans knew her as Allyssa “Lacey” Lane, a key member of the 2012 NCAA Division II national championship women’s basketball team.
Carter, her wrestling name in the ring, averaged over four points as a senior but legendary Head Coach Jacques Curtis didn’t need her to score. She ran the offense like a well-oiled machine, leading the team in assists. On defense, Carter was among the team leaders in steals.
“She played a major role in us winning that national championship,” said Curtis, whose Shaw teams have won nine CIAA crowns. “She could get the ball where it needed to be. At the same time, if you didn’t guard her, she could shoot the ball. She could drive and get to the basket. That team was a very offensive-powered squad, so we didn’t need a whole lot from her offensively but when she had to, she could score. She always gave you what you needed because she was playing with other talented players.”
Carter keyed the Lady Bears during their national title run. She scored 19 points in a regional championship win over Edinboro on the opponent’s home court. Edinboro sagged off point guards Lane and Brittany Spencer to take away Shaw’s vaunted inside players, and Carter made them pay. In the national championship game, Carter had a key steal and assist in an 88-82 come-from-behind overtime win over previously unbeaten Ashland (Ohio). The Lady Bears were unranked entering the Elite Eight.
During her two years at Shaw, Lane helped the Lady Bears win two CIAA crowns and two regional titles, make two Elite Eight appearances, reach two Finals Fours, and capture the NCAA Division II national crown under Coach Curtis.
“What I remember the most is Coach Curtis came up with a formula,” Carter said about the national championship season. “It was an unorthodox style. All of our bigs played outside. We started two point guards and three post players. Our post players didn’t mind shooting outside. We were known for a lot of fastbreaks, and anybody could handle the ball. My role was to make sure I got the ball out quick. Me and Spencer were always getting out in the open on the break.”
Her success translated in the wrestling ring. Carter has been climbing the ranks since starting her career seven years ago. She and partner Katana Chance won the WWE NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship and now Carter is on WWE Raw, which is televised on Mondays.
She fell in love immediately with pro wrestling after attending a show in her hometown of Winter Park, Fla. The physical nature and hectic schedule did not scare Carter, a fearless dynamo at 5-foot-2.
“I mean this when I say it, but I believe I am 6-foot-2, 225 pounds,” added Kayden Carter, who wrestles in approximately 100 matches a year. “I even drive a truck that is six inches off the ground. I have a big person mentality. If you ever ask people about my personality, they will say I am a raging pit bull.”
As for the mental part of pro wrestling, her basketball career at Shaw prepared her for that.
“What people don’t understand is the mentality in basketball is the same as in wrestling,” Carter said. “Being able to handle the kind of schedule we played at Shaw prepared me. I’ve never been in a conference (CIAA) that was so aggressive. It was a bad-ass conference. It was tough, you had to be gritty, you had to take hits. That is the kind of stuff you need in wrestling.”
“Coach Curtis wasn’t easy,” Carter added. “He pushed us hard. It built your mental toughness. We had to be mentally tough to win the national championship. We laid everything on the line.”
Another coach inspired Carter but in a different way.
“My high school coach told me I wouldn’t play college basketball because I was too small,” said Carter, who graduated Magna Cum Laude in recreational management from Shaw.
Kayden Carter proved her high school coach wrong. She overcame four knee surgeries – including three in college – to become a national basketball champion. To this day, Carter uses her high school coach’s words as incentive as she battles against taller, athletic wrestlers such as former UFC champion Ronda Rousey.
“I consider myself a damn good athlete,” said Kayden Carter, one of the few minorities (part Jamaican and Filipino) in pro wrestling. “I put it out there because people don’t look at me like that. We got gold medal Olympians, football players, rugby players, and UFC fighters in pro wrestling. There weren’t a lot of collegiate athletes when I started. It was awesome [wrestling Rousey]. I got to be in the ring with the baddest person on the planet, and I think I gained a little bit of respect from her.”
Basketball, though a totally different sport, has become a talent pool for pro wrestling. Hoopsters possess the finesse, hand-eye coordination, power and footwork needed to be successful in the ring.
Former basketball players such as Kevin Nash, The Undertaker and Omas became WWE stars. Now Carter is following the same path.
“[Wrestling] gives you the ability to affect other people,” she said. “You are able to help change lives. When people say they felt good watching me wrestle and want to try different things in life, it makes me happy. I always grew up with a caring nature. I don’t want to feel as if I have no one to talk to or to help me, and I don’t want others to feel that way. That’s what you can share in wrestling.”
“I also get a rush from wrestling,” Carter added, laughing. “I wouldn’t jump out of a plane, but I would punch someone in the face.”
– Courtesy: Shaw University