Kayla is an NZBA alumni from 2011, and just graduated from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. Peter Gosnell interviewed her after her graduation, to find out the keys to her success and what her plans were for the future.
Can you tell the players at home a little bit about your journey, what you have achieved at college and what sort of decisions you had to make to get to where you are?
My journey has been a humbling roller coaster of ups and downs, dealing with adaption to different culture, different elements of coaching, home sick for a year, death, emotional women with different mindsets, competing, keeping up grade point averages and working to keep your scholarship
- Its one thing to earn a scholarship, but another to make the most of it when you arrive in the states. Not everyone is capable of graduating and finishing school because there are so many challenges that can cause you to give up.
- Freshman year, new to a whole team who were all sophomores, had to compete for court time & was challenged with a bunch of girls who weren't happy to give there spot up for a newbie, managed to start all games and played a great amount. The culture of the team was so competitive, classes were smaller, so the school concentrated on pushing students. I was taking 18- 22 credits per semester, which is a heck load for just an average student let alone a student athlete. Were conference champions, got all tournament team at the regional tournament. The town was very conservative & the closest mall was 2 hours away. I was also home sick for the first five months and it wasnt the greatest experience. My day consisted of practice, class, practice, study hall, eat and sleep. Obstacles - Dad died that year as well, so flew back for a week and then flew back to finish school.
- Sophomore year, the three Kiwis attended junior college. Me, Jazz and Milomilo were conference champions. However, school was difficult especially around basketball season, long road trips, assignment deadlines and staying at so many different hotels can take a toll on you mentally and physically. I also had to deal with trying to get recruited after junior college, but the team atmosphere was much better, so it made that year more enjoyable.
- Junior year, chose Point Park University because of the location and the networks that I already had in place. It came down to the decision of going to a school in the country & dealing with just basketball or finding a school to pay for my education and reaping the rewards of more than just basketball. Location was the main attraction, I had a couple of offers before Point Park, Arkansas Tech University, a division two school in South Dakota, Buffalo NY and Stretson university offered when I signed. I would of taken that offer in Florida if i didn't already sign to PPU.
Started as a Point Guard for the first time in my college career, went 29-5, conference champions and regional champions which was the best record in school history. KIAC player twice that year & did well. This year was probably the toughest year on my body, because the pace was much faster and wasnt structured like the other system.
-Senior was very difficult, I started again, but the dynamics of a girls basketball team is more than just ball. Its molding so many attitudes together with different mentalities to achieve a common goal. We didn't do so well, I started as a shooting guard this round, but my mind was focused on graduating. By my senior year I grew accustomed to role of a college athlete, it had been practice, school, work, eat, sleep and repeat. I pretty much had the gist of the system down pat, but school took more of a priority over being a player. I loved the school, the location, the people, but the winters a brutal during season.
Now that you have graduated from college in the USA, what are your plans for the future?
I have opt training, so another year eligible in the states to find work in my related course of study. I plan to go home one day & help women get scholarships to the states at any level, its much easier for women to get recruited than men. I'm starting to put together a couple of all girls camp here in the PA, because this state doesn't offer opportunity to learn fundamental skills for girls who want to play and isnt well known for the sport compared to Indianapolis, North Carolina or New York. I've been approached by various people to teach there kids, so thats a plan before i find full time work & travel the USA a bit more. My ultimate goal is to keep on travelling, so i don't plan on coming home any time soon.
"Attitude determines your altitude". What sort of attitude does a Kiwi prospect have to have if they want to be successful in the USA?
You have to have a killer instinct on court & at the same time have a contagious attitude thats humbling for people to be around. You just have to be willing to work hard, get along with others and show on the court that you deserve to be there. Nobody questions your work ethic & attitude if your a magnet for people to be around, and want to do great. There are times where you may doubt yourself, so its vital to be surrounded by people who want to see you succeed & support you through your obstacles.
Remember when you are a Kiwi in the USA, you not only represent yourself but the people back home. Always aim to finish what you started and enjoy the journey along the way.