GATESVILLE — Four years ago, Kayla McGiboney was a blank slate.
Prior to seventh grade, she had never played basketball, and she had no intention to.
“I wasn’t going to play, but then my coach made me, and I actually ended up liking it,” McGiboney said.
She quickly established herself as one of the best all-around players in Gatesville, however, and has since become a force for the Lady Hornets.
Now, as a junior, the post is an indispensable force for Chris Carroll’s varsity team, averaging eight points, seven rebounds and a steal per game, with all the numbers ranking second among the roster’s leaders.
For Carroll, who is in his fourth year guiding the program, her presence is vital.
“She continues to improve with each game,” he said. “She has been our most consistent post player this year.”
After receiving limited playing time as a freshman during the postseason, McGiboney cemented a spot in the starting lineup as a sophomore last season, but the Lady Hornets missed the playoffs, finishing with a 3-7 record (12-18 overall) while competing against a difficult District 8-3A schedule.
However, the experience of playing as a sophomore only served to further hone McGiboney’s skills.
“At first, I was really nervous, but I’ve got a lot better than I was last year,” she said.
“Last year gave me a look at how a lot of different teams play and how aggressive each team is, so I can use that this year to be prepared.”
With a better understanding of the bruising nature of the post position, McGiboney is embracing her role on the squad as one of its forces in the paint.
In addition to being a defensive presence, she led the team in scoring on several occasions this season, producing one of her best performances in a home loss to Salado. Against the Lady Eagles, McGiboney exploded for 10 of her game-high 15 points in the second quarter.
“I try to be as physical as I can,” she said. “There are a lot of players who are a lot bigger than me, but I try really hard.”
A two-sport standout, McGiboney was recently named District 8-3A Co-Offensive Player of the Year in volleyball and earned a spot on the KDHpressbox.com All-Area Team after guiding the Lady Hornets to an 11th consecutive playoff appearance.
Just like in basketball, she gets the most out of her 5-foot-10-inch frame, according to Gatesville head volleyball coach Rickey Phillips.
“She sets a great example with hard work every day,” he said. “What sets her apart from a lot of bigger kids is she really wants to excel at all phases of the game, not just as a hitter and blocker.”
McGiboney is also establishing herself as a leader on the court.
With several seniors on the Lady Hornets basketball team, she has not been required to inherit a position of authority just yet, but she is continually studying their methods in preparation for next year.
“They show us how a teammate should be,” said McGiboney of Gatesville’s seniors. “They show us (the difference between) encouraging each other and yelling at each other.”
Missing a key piece in senior point guard Sarah Latham, who suffered a serious knee injury over the summer, the Lady Hornets have struggled on the court, producing a 7-9 record to start the season, but McGiboney believes the team can turn its year around and return to the playoffs with a strong district showing.
Regardless of when Gatesville’s season ends, McGiboney cherishes the time with her teammates and is content to simply enjoy the game she discovered just a few short years ago.
“It is frustrating when we lose, but I love basketball,” she said. “Being with my friends just makes it better. Even if we are losing, it is still fun.”