Photo by Kent Brewer
Who is this young lady with fire-winning eyes? That’s what McKay girls’ basketball has this year. In Salem, Oregon, there is a basketball player that tells everyone, I want to win! She won’t say it but she’ll display it on the basketball court. Standing at 5’ 2” as a basketball player might be misleading – this athlete plays like she’s 5’8”.
The first time I met her was last summer during a “Salem Hoops Project” session. I didn’t think too much of it, but when I saw her shoot and dribble the basketball during some of the most challenging drills, well, I knew she was a “baller”. Action, not words, is what I saw in this young female competitor.
Kayla Reyna is a Latina and the daughter of Ayda Leyva and Rudy Reyna. She has one older brother – Rudy Jr. Kayla plays point guard for the McKay High School Lady Scots. McKay plays in the Central Valley Conference. Her successful road in hoops has not been an easy one, but an admiration to many people.
She grew up in Gervais, Oregon, a small town with a low-income community, which resides fifteen miles north of Salem. Her family moved to Silverton, Oregon, while she was in grade school.
“When I was little I looked up to my older brother, Rudy. I always wanted to hang around him because I thought he was really cool. I just hung around him and his friends. We played basketball just about every day,” Kayla said.
Kayla’s brother inspired her to love the game of basketball. She was very close to him and felt safe being around him when she was out and about. She watched and learned from good basketball players.
Sometimes in the Latino culture the parents don’t always encourage their daughters to play sports. In Kayla’s situation her mom and dad supported her one hundred percent. They just wanted to be sure she was safe while playing basketball with Rudy’s friends.
When Kayla was in the fourth grade something heartbreaking happened – her parents went through a painful divorce. At that same time she also lost her grandmother who was very close to her. To some people sports is not important. But to Kayla, it was her counseling. Basketball helped her deal with the emotional times. It meant being around kids that were having fun plus it took her mind to a more relaxed place.
“That was really hard for Rudy and I to deal with – I started playing a lot of basketball. My family seemed to always have problems – some relatives even getting into trouble. When we lost Grandma I was torn – she meant the world to me. This is something I usually don’t share with people,” Kayla said.
After her parents split up, Kayla and her mom moved back to Gervais where she attended Gervais Middle School. She started seeing “the lack of success” in her family tree. She wanted to change that. Using basketball to cope, she became a good student athlete. Making the right decisions for her future was important.
In the seventh grade Kayla played with Cascade (an all-star tournament team) for two years. Later her mom moved them to Woodburn, Oregon, when she was a freshman. While attending and playing for Woodburn High School, she played for two other teams – The Hoop in Salem and The Portland Rebels (an AAU traveling tournament team).
Spending most of her high school years in Woodburn, Oregon, Kayla and her mom moved to Salem after her junior year. She has joined the McKay Lady Scots for her senior year. Assistant Coach Lamar Griffin was working with her on skills for awhile, but then he left McKay. Griffin referred Kayla to Matt Espinoza (Noza), the boys’ varsity assistant coach. Kayla spent all summer training with Noza at the Salem Hoops Project.
“Kayla began working out with me last summer. She has a desire and work ethic to become a great point guard for her team,” Coach Matt Espinoza said.
Her mom, Ayda, has been very supportive of Kayla. The two of them think of others. They help Kayla’s teammates with rides to and from practices. Kayla encourages this and her mom supports it.
“A lot of people don’t think of McKay in a winning mentality. As one of the leaders I want to help create a winning mentality for McKay. We have some talent this year. I want to adjust with my teammates in how they play – whatever I need to do to make us better. One of my goals is to be able to compete with South Salem – the number one team in the CVC. I would also like to help us make the playoffs,” Kayla said.
McKay girls’ basketball has a stellar roster this season with great shooters like all-around-player Braylee Stone, sharp-shooter Alexia Wolf, and inside-force Kenya Williams, plus more. They work hard when they set foot on the basketball court. With the addition of Kayla Reyna they will be able to compete with any team.
“Kayla is such an outstanding player, she can shoot from anywhere on the court. She’s a smart player and can adjust to any play. I’m so excited to continue the season with her! I love how much work she puts into practices and games,” said her teammate, Braylee Stone.
Academically she maintains a 3.5 GPA and would like to improve that. Her dream is to get a college scholarship to play basketball somewhere. She wants to be the first in her family to succeed in life – really wants to make her mom proud. Kayla’s focus for the future is to study sports medicine. She would love to be an athletic trainer after college.
“It’s been a huge boost for the team having her leadership. She’s worked really hard and has done a great job getting acclimated to her teammates’ style of play – she is fitting in perfectly. Kayla brings calmness to the pressures of defenses – her teammates feast off of that. She sees the floor differently than most players, and she makes those around her better players. She has the work ethic to improve and we’re looking for big things from her this season,” Head Coach Derick Handley said.
Kayla will set a mark, not only for her family, but also to all of the young female athletes out there looking for an example to follow. She is great proof of what hard work can accomplish. Keep up the good work Kayla!
Kayla, what are your favorite basketball moments?
Before my junior year, I played for an international USA team and we won a huge tournament in the Bahamas. I also once scored 27 points in a game.
Favorite NBA team and college team?
The LA Lakers – I like Kobe Bryant. In college I like Duke.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
Oh my gosh, falling on the floor during a basketball game.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy hanging out with friends, watching movies, and listening to music – Hip-Hop Rap (Drake).