Friday, June 21, 2024

Meet Kateryna Koval: the Class of 2024 Star Pursuing Her Hoop Goals

This story seems in SLAM 245. Get your copy right here.

On the age of 10, Kateryna Koval needed to make a doubtlessly life-changing alternative between her first two loves: ballet and basketball. Quick ahead to the current, and the 6-4 heart displays again figuring out that she made the plain proper one. Surprisingly, Koval and her household had doubts about her pursuing hoops. To be truthful, basketball didn’t run within the household and nobody envisioned that she would develop right into a five-star prospect.

“I used to be pondering of selecting ballet as a result of I didn’t like basketball at first. However then…I fell in love with the sport,” she says. 

Born in Ukraine, Koval knew she was gifted sufficient to pursue a profession in hoops when she was simply 12, again when she was enjoying in opposition to 15-year-olds. Two years in the past, Lengthy Island Lutheran head coach Christina Raiti noticed Koval’s highlights and satisfied her to maneuver 4,664 miles from her childhood residence to affix this system. “It was arduous figuring out I’m leaving my household, my pals, every thing I like and [am] used to,” she says. 

Though it was doubtlessly a life-changing resolution, she was additionally excited to take the leap. “The concept of exploring new issues, getting a greater training, enjoying basketball in opposition to the very best gamers within the nation is so thrilling for me,” she says. “That half lined all of the stress.” 

You’ll discover Koval on a extremely ranked squad for any event she’s in, together with her nationwide group (which she began enjoying on when she was 12). She was an authorized baller on the FIBA U16 Girls’s European Challengers, averaging 26 factors and 14.2 rebounds per sport. Koval fashions her sport after NBA and WNBA champions Nikola Jokic and A’ja Wilson. “I like Nikola Jokic and the best way he is ready to move the ball and shoot.” she says. “I [also] love A’ja Wilson, her sport and physicality.” 

Koval’s versatility permits her to stretch the ground and knock down threes with out hesitation. “It’s sort of disrespectful to me—leaving me open, pondering I can’t shoot,” she says. All enterprise on the courtroom, her aggressive nature is what makes her character. “You’re in all probability not going to see me smile or snigger in the course of the sport,” she says. “We could be pals outdoors the courtroom. I can hug you after the sport, but when we play in opposition to one another, you recognize I like successful and I hate shedding.”

Koval has turn out to be “the lady” that opposing coaches must scheme in opposition to. “I’m going into each single sport figuring out I’m going to be double-teamed, even triple-teamed,” she says. Dare to place three defenders on her and she or he’ll dish the ball to her teammates for large open photographs. “I’m going to move that ball,” she says, “and I’m going to proceed to try this as a result of it’s the proper play.” 

Koval already has her profession objectives mapped out. This yr? Win “a nationwide title with my group,” she says. Then she smiles and provides, “and make my school resolution.” Koval’s rising variety of supply letters consists of high applications like LSU, Notre Dame, Duke and Stanford, and she or he nonetheless has extra official recruiting visits lined up. Whichever program she decides to decide to, her objective stays the identical.

“The objective is successful the nationwide championship with my school group,” she says. Koval additionally has her eyes set on the massive League. “The lengthy, long run goes professional, WNBA.”

Portraits by Marcus Stevens.

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