For Kayla Alexander, this could be a case of art imitating life imitating art.
Alexander is the Lynx backup center. When it became clear in February that Temi Fagbenle was going to bypass the 2020 WNBA season, coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve signed Alexander.
That meant the Lynx got a seven-year veteran, a proven defender and rebounder when given the playing time, and a player whose persistence kept her working even when opportunities appeared to be drying up just a year ago.
Alexander has been passionate about art since she was young. Along with sister Kesia, she co-wrote and illustrated a children’s book entitled “The Magic of Basketball.”
A native of Ontario, Canada, the 6-4 Alexander left Syracuse as the Orange’s all-time leader in scoring and blocks.
A first-round draft pick by the then-San Antonio Stars in 2013, she was a backup center for five years, then had the same role for Indiana in 2018.
Waived by the Fever before the start of the 2019 season, she was signed late last summer by Chicago after Jantel Lavender was injured.
Reeve was impressed with the way Alexander had played for Team Canada in the Olympic qualifying tournament.
She thought Alexander had more potential than perhaps she had been allowed to show before.
Now, in Lynx camp, with Reeve hoping to keep Sylvia Fowles’ minutes under 28 a game, Alexander has that opportunity. So far, in camp, Alexander’s work ethic has shown.
“I know I have to earn everything,” Alexander said. She has career averages of 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 187 WNBA games. But those numbers jump to 12.1 and 8.6 on a per-36-minute average. “I have to play defense, rebound, help the team be successful.”
Her perseverance is to be expected. After all, she’s written about it. As a child she remembers looking for books that had characters that looked like her, a person of color. So she decided to write one herself.
She was a natural. She loves basketball. She loves kids, having graduated from Syracuse with a degree in education. She loves art. Why not combine them?
The book is about a young girl named Kayla and how her journey in basketball teaches her lessons along the way.
“I wanted to empower kids to be the best version of themselves,” Alexander said. “I did research. Only 10 percent of children’s books had characters that looked like me. And I didn’t see a lot of children’s books about a girl in sports.”
So she wrote a story loosely based on her life about a girl who falls in love with the game and works hard to get to where she wants to be.
It was a lesson she both wrote and followed when spending part of last season on the sidelines.
Now she hopes the 2020 season will be an exciting new chapter in her life.
“She looks good,” Reeve said of Alexander. “She’s trim, long. She’s a natural shot-blocker. She does things necessary to keep herself on the floor.”
While working with USA Basketball, Reeve got a chance to see Alexander play for Canada, a team that modified its offense to accommodate Alexander during the Olympic qualifying tournament. Reeve believes Alexander has more to show than she has, so far, in the WNBA.
“I’m not so much focused on minutes, but on being the best player I can be,” Alexander said. “And, with the time I get, being productive.
“It’s been great. I’m playing against one of the best post players ever to play in the league [in Fowles].”