Finals, college applications and plans with friends are usually on the minds of high school seniors.
Now imagine being that age, but instead, you have an offer to be a Division 1 athlete, and potentially, a budding music career ahead.
Welcome to the world of Kayla Clark, a senior at Boulder Creek High School in Anthem. She’s committed to play basketball at Southern Utah University next year, and just released her first EP, “My World of Loneliness,” in January. It’s available on most streaming platforms.
“She might be president of the United States (someday), she’s a very bright girl,” said Boulder Creek assistant coach Nate Townsend. “She is just a high-caliber, very bright, very personable young lady and she will do very well in whatever she decides to do.”
Growing up in a family full of athletes and musicians, it comes as no surprise that Kayla has a love for both.
“My dad played all different sports, he played baseball, golf, football, basketball,” Kayla said. “My mom played (basketball) in high school, and then I have an older brother, and he always played so I started playing because I just kind of wanted to be like him.
“My whole family is (also) into music, my aunt was in choir for a long time, and then my uncle moved to LA to try to live out his music career. I play piano, I play guitar and I sing,” Kayla said. “We’ve always loved music, and as I grew up, my passion for it just kind of grew.”
Kayla’s father, Aaron Clark, said that he thinks sports and music are “in the blood” for Kayla, with so many relatives being talented in both regards.
“Both sides of our family have people with a musical background,” Aaron said. “A lot of (Kayla’s) academic prowess is mathematical and analytical. I think the music is a great creative outlet for her.”
For now, Kayla’s primary focus is on basketball. She has averaged 8.9 points, 5.9 assists, 8 rebounds and 5.6 steals through the first nine games of her senior season.
Boulder Creek coach Noah Barofski says Kayla’s on-court abilities are only a part of what makes her such a special player.
“It’s really good when your best player is your hardest working player, and that’s who she is,” Barofski said. “She’s just been a role model for all the girls as to what work ethic really looks like. She’s talented and she has all the skills, but it’s really nice to have your best player be your hardest working player.”
Aaron, who has been coaching basketball for 20 years, echoed Barofski’s sentiment that skills are only half the equation.
“She has a lot of skills, but I would say her basketball IQ is her greatest asset,” Aaron said. “Unlike shooting, dribbling, gaining strength, it’s a hard thing to teach because it involves a lot of instinct.”
“I think she is really special because she is such a leader on and off the court,” said Joelle Clark, Kayla’s mother.
“Also, I love that she is one of the shortest players and yet gets in there and fights for rebounds. She plays much bigger than she really is.”
After talking to several schools, including Harvard, Kayla said SUU was the obvious choice for her.
“(The SUU coaches) kept reaching out, they FaceTimed me, they really just made me feel comfortable in getting to know them,” Kayla said. “They’re so sweet, I’ve never met a program that has such a good culture, so it really made the decision easy for me.”
“We let Kayla know that ultimately the decision was hers and hers alone,” Kayla’s parents said in a joint statement via email. “That being said, we were fairly involved in pointing out the pros and cons of each opportunity and doing our best to collect all the information we could for her so that she could make an informed decision. We are very pleased with her decision.”
Boulder Creek sophomore Jenna Cass said she believes playing at SUU will help elevate Kayla’s game to new heights.
“I see her doing really well (there), she has so much potential,” Cass said. “She’s really good already, and I feel like she takes coaching really well, she takes it all in and does what she does well. And with the higher-level teammates (in college), I feel like she could go far.”
While she is excited to get started at SUU, Kayla knows the road ahead will be tougher.
“(College basketball) is a lot more serious and it’s a lot more hours and dedication and time,” Kayla said. “So, I think, it’s not so much that I’ll miss (Boulder Creek), just that I don’t want to take it for granted while I’m still younger and in high school.”
One thing she will miss from her time at Boulder Creek is competing against the best alongside her teammates, regardless of the outcome.
“I would say any time we play Valley Vista. They’re a pretty solid team and I feel like every time (we play them), we’re just expected to go in there and get completely slammed.” Kayla said. “But we always give them a good game, and even though we end up losing, we come out of it feeling like we won, because we played higher than everybody else’s expectations.”
For Barofski, losing Kayla means not only losing his best player, but a great basketball mind as well.
“I love just talking basketball with her… We can chat and have conversations that I think are just different and unique,” Barofski said.
“It has to do with her experience, but it also has to do with her knowledge of the game, (it’s) just really great to have that dialogue with her, so I’ve very much enjoyed that.”
Townsend said despite Kayla’s business-like demeanor, he’ll miss the lighter moments between them.
“She’s very serious, she hardly ever cracks a smile but when you get her, you got her,” Townsend said. “My nickname for her is ‘Sunshine,’ and it’s because she gets that smile on her face and it just lights up the room, but you have to work at it sometimes to get there.”