By Rick Assad
Kayla Wrobel, a polished 5-foot, 11-inch power forward on the Burroughs High girls’ basketball team is a superb stat stuffer.
What makes Wrobel’s hustle so vital is that the Indians will often go on a scoring spree or prevent the other team from putting the ball in the hoop.
“As exciting as it is to score, that is not my main goal and I know that it is not what I am best at,” said Wrobel, a four-year starter, who was selected All-CIF second team and All-Pacific League first team this past campaign when the Indians carved out a 25-8 record and 12-2 in the Pacific League for second after pouring in 9.5 points, second most on the team and grabbing 7.9 rebounds, second best across 33 games. “My role and the way I contribute the most is by rebounding and always going after the ball. I also talk a lot on the court and communicate with my teammates.”
What makes hoops so exciting for Wrobel, who was tabbed as the February Athlete of the Month in 2020, is that it’s improvisational.
“Basketball is intriguing to me because I see it as there are no rules,” she said. “Obviously the rules of basketball apply, but there are no rules on how you have to score and how you can prevent the other team from scoring.”
A two-time honorable mention, Wrobel added: “I love to be creative on the court and make my own moves,” she offered. ” There are no guidelines on what way you should play the game. You get to play with your own manner.”
Wrobel, who will major in Architecture and hopes to play basketball at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, knows her most valuable asset.
“The best aspect of my game is the will,” she said. “I want to dive on the ground for the loose balls. I want to rip the ball from my opponents’ hands. I’m not afraid to do these things. Honestly, when I make a good play like that, it pumps me up and makes the rest of my game better because I am more confident.”
Wrobel’s senior hoop season will commence in 2021 because of the unprecedented coronavirus.
“As bad as the tragedy that COVID-19 is, I have used the time positively,” she noted. “I am the youngest so all of my siblings returned from college, so the full house really pushed me to go outside and play basketball. We have a hoop and my older brother and I go outside and play sometimes for hours multiple times a day.”
Wrobel continued: “We obviously can’t practice with the team in person, but we have had many practices on Zoom,” she said. “A little time was good to get away from each other, but six months is way too long to be apart. COVID-19 has shown all the players what we mean to each other and how much that this team environment affects our lives. It’s something that athletes need because it’s a second family.”
An unselfish player, Wrobel has set goals for herself and her teammates. “I’ve always wanted to stay on the All-League teams for all four years,” she said. “A more specific goal for myself is that I want to have an improving free-throw percentage every year because free throws are something that I struggle with and I can get myself to the free-throw line often.”
Wrobel, who accounted for 8.5 points with 7.1 boards in 28 matches as a sophomore when Burroughs went 21-8 and 10-4 for fourth place in league, added: “A goal for the team was to make it past the second round of the [CIF Southern Section] playoffs,” she said. “Freshman year we lost in the second round and sophomore year we lost in the first round. This past year we got a taste making it to the semifinals. That has been the greatest experience of my life. We were also the first Burroughs girls’ basketball team in history to qualify for state playoffs. Unfortunately, our first-round state playoff game did not go as planned. That has just set the stage for this year. I hope we are able not only to compete, but to have a good playoff run in this upcoming year.”
How does Wrobel psyche herself up for a match? “When I am preparing for a game, I always take time to think for myself. I always picture what I want to accomplish in that game,” she pointed out. “It changes from game to game, depending on the opponent. That also brings in the physical portion. In warmups, I always picture the defense I am going to face and who I am going to be playing defense against.”
While some don’t look forward to practice, Wrobel, who knocked down 5.4 points along with 5.2 caroms in 30 games as a freshman as the Indians finished 23-8 and 11-3 for second place in league, welcomes it.
“Practice is the time to make mistakes,” she said. “Coach V [Vicky Oganyan] always pushes us to get better and she doesn’t care when we mess up because she knows we are pushing ourselves to get better. It is also a time to bond with my teammates. We are always encouraging each other and wanting each other to improve one’s game.”
Oganyan sees Wrobel’s improvement. “Kayla brings a level of toughness, energy and work ethic on to the court which is a difference maker for us,” she said. “She has improved since her freshman year both offensively and defensively. She’s very conscientious, committed and unselfish. Kayla is mature beyond her years and makes an outstanding leader. She has been a pleasure to coach and has contributed positively to our culture.”
Aside from being an effective player, Wrobel wants to be a floor leader. “I do consider myself to be a leader on the court,” she said. “On the court, I am communicating and encouraging my teammates to work as one. Off the court, I have improved my leadership skills, but I know I can be better. To improve, I want to get closer to some teammates and bring our team together as a whole. In my opinion, a team can be better on the court by working on the relationships off the court.”
There were moments when Burroughs needed a kick in the pants. “When we are struggling, I try to be vocal. That always seems to help. I say things like “pick it up,” and “finish.” I say things that I know my teammates will respond to,” she said. “With that, I try to push extra hard because if the team sees one person pushing, they will follow.”
With one season left, Wrobel says her best game occurred during her second campaign.
“My career highlight was sophomore year in [Maui], Hawaii in the [King Kekaulike Tournament] championship game [against Kapa’a]. I scored 22 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and had three steals,” she said. “But what was memorable about it was that I didn’t know that my stats were that great. During the game, I was just playing. I wasn’t focused on what I did. I was focused on the rest of the game. The game was close, but we pulled out the win, 54-49.”