NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Conference USA Sixth Player of the Year, C-USA regular season and tournament titles, an NCAA tournament appearance, and being drafted 35th overall in the 2023 WNBA Draft — this season has been a whirlwind for Middle Tennessee forward Kseniya Malashka.

“It was like almost the end of the draft,” said Malashka. “I saw my name on the screen and all of [my teammates] started screaming and jumping and just like get excited. So, we’re all like hugging each other, then it was like we didn’t even see who picked me.”

Malashka is headed to Chicago, ready to add that versality we saw with the Lady Raiders to the Sky. She was MTSU’s leader in points per game with just over 15 and second on the team in rebounds — and she was coming off the bench.

“I feel like I’m the spark from the bench. I feel like when I go into the game, I can change the game. Teams that play us have a lot of trouble guarding me because I feel like they’re getting more ready for the first five players, but when I come into the game I change the pace of the game.”

And it was the game of basketball that she leaned on when she moved to North America from Belarus in high school. It helped her get through the culture shock of being in a country where she didn’t speak the language.

“Basketball helped me to develop those relationships with coaches. It’s not just they’re my coaches, they were my family here.”

Malashka said her message to young athletes is to not focus so much on why they aren’t starting, but to just be prepared to impact the game when their number is called.