Kayla Leland is one of three seniors Gonzaga Prep girls basketball coach Mike Arte must replace next year on his State 4A championship team.
Just one of those seniors started. Leland, a guard, was the Bullpups’ sixth man.
To hear Arte tell it, he’ll have the most difficulty replacing Leland of the three seniors. That’s not to minimize each of their contributions.
And it has little to do with her abilities – although they were plentiful – and more with her value as a human being.
“She is a unique player,” Arte said. “The quality character she possesses cannot be replaced with regards to our basketball team.”
A three-year letterman, the 5-foot-5 Leland finished with the second-most made 3-pointers the last two seasons. She averaged 7.3 points in 13.5 minutes per game during that span.
“Kayla is a dynamic athlete,” Arte said. “Her ability to match her skill level to her effort provides her positive results in all of her endeavors – whether it is on the court, on the track or in the classroom. I have never coached a player, nor seen a player, that can match her energy and endurance on the court. She simply never gets tired.”
Leland, who will finish with a 4.0 grade-point average and is one of eight valedictorians, was named G-Prep’s female scholar-athlete of the year. She decided last week to accept an $80,000 ‘Mind and Heart’ academic scholarship at Whitworth University, where she hopes to play basketball and run track. The scholarship will cover $20,000 of her education each year.
Arte said Leland’s reserved, stoic personality can fool people.
“She is competitive and a fireball,” Arte said.
On the track, Leland is a mixture of speed and endurance. She placed fifth at state as a sophomore in the 400 meters, and just two weeks ago she attempted the difficult 800 – a sprint/middle distance race that requires a paced first lap followed by an amped-up final 400.
In her second attempt last week, she finished in 2 minutes, 18.64 seconds. That’s the top time among Greater Spokane League 4A runners.
Her track coach, Joe Feryn, believes she’ll continue to trim time off in the remaining weeks of the season.
“I see her having the most potential at state in the 800,” he said. “She’s a student of running. She’s figuring it out.”
Feryn loves having Leland around during practices. She’s a mentor to his younger athletes.
“She’s one of the most hard-working kids we’ve had in our program,” Feryn said. “She’s very disciplined. She’s a kid you almost have to tell to back off and not (train) so hard. She understands what it means to be committed to something.”
Leland, the daughter of district court judge Richard Leland, wants to pursue pre-law studies at Whitworth.
Athleticism is in her genes. Her cousin, Parker Kelly, is a basketball standout at Eastern Washington University.
It’s no secret which athletic achievement Leland cherishes most.
“Winning the state title is a moment I’ll never forget,” she said. “It was fun to see how we accomplished such great success.”