Sports Odds & Ends
Minnesota is the third and final collegiate stop for Mi’Cole (pronounced MY-coal) Cayton. Because of Covid, NCAA athletes, if they so chose, got an extra year of playing eligibility.
As a result, after two seasons at Nebraska (2020-22) and three seasons at Cal (2016-19) before that, along with a couple of missed seasons due to injuries, Cayton took advantage, took the extra year offered, and put her name in the transfer portal after last season.
More importantly, the 5′ 9″ guard from Stockton, CA finally gets to play for Minnesota Associate Head Coach Shimmy Gray-Miller, who first saw Cayton back in high school.
“I first saw Mi’Cole play in December of 2014,” the veteran coach told the MSR. “She was a junior at St. Mary’s (Stockton).
“I was there for [another] player, Jess Shepard [now a member of the Minnesota Lynx]. Jess had already committed to us [Gray-Miller then was an assistant coach at Nebraska]. But I couldn’t keep my eyes off Mi’Cole.”
From then on, Cayton was on her radar, recalled Gray-Miller, who recruited her for the Huskers, and the California native did commit to Nebraska. However, after then-coach Connie Yori got fired, Cayton was released from her letter of intent and signed instead with Cal. Also, Gray-Miller left and took a position at Florida.
“I tried to get her to come to Florida with me,” she admitted, “but she opted to go to Cal and stay closer to home.”
Nonetheless, to paraphrase the classic closing line from Casablanca, a beautiful player-coach relationship started as Cayton and Gray-Miller kept in touch mainly through social media over the years. Now the two are together in Gopherland.
“It becomes all about relationships and where you fit in best in personalities and different things like that,” explained Cayton on the recruiting process. “[Gray-Miller] always kept in contact and was very, very honest” during the entire ordeal.
“That relationship has always been very, very special to me. So, I think my best move was to come here and be with somebody who I love, look up to, and one day, want to be like.”
Minnesota HC Lindsay Whalen noted, “When [Cayton] went into the transfer portal, she was somebody who we talked about right away.” It didn’t hurt that Gray-Miller was well aware of the guard’s play as well, she added. “We’re thrilled to have her on the team,” said Whalen.
Already in this young season, Cayton has started two games, which surpassed her games-started total (one) during her time in Nebraska. “She’s done a heck of a job getting on the court and getting with her teammates. She provides veteran leadership,” said Whalen.
Added Gray-Miller, “She’s still the kid I first saw six years ago.” The coach has mad respect for Cayton, who has worked her way back after multiple knee injuries that forced her to miss the entire 2017-18 season, most of the 2018-19 season, and again all of the 2019-20 campaign.
“There is no telling what she could have become had she not suffered those injuries,” noted Gray-Miller. “She has a chip on her shoulder, but not in a negative way—she has something to prove. She’s loyal. She’s tough. She gets excited over seeing her teammates get buckets.”
Off the court, Cayton has taken care of business as a three-time scholar-athlete honor roll member at Nebraska, a first team 2022 Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar, Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, and Academic All-Big Ten (2022). She also has two degrees: a bachelor’s in legal studies from Cal (2020) and a master’s degree in applied science from Nebraska in 2022. She hopes the third degree in higher education and administration she is working on at Minnesota will ultimately lead her to a career as an administrator.
“I eventually want to be an attorney,” said Cayton. “I want to work in education, maybe a superintendent or director of some school system.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.