Successful Tae Kwon Do black belt excels with basketball

Successful Tae Kwon Do black belt excels with basketball

Brad Schmidt

There is a Tae Kwon Do black belt on campus, and in her free time you can catch her grabbing rebounds out of the air and scoring baskets.

Sophomore post player Kylie Kuhns has been a bright spot early this season for the Sacramento State women’s basketball team. The Hornets have gotten off to a slow start this season with a 1-6 record, but Kuhns has given the team a reason to believe it can be turned around.

Kuhns has been a statistical monster this year. She leads the NCAA with 13.4 rebounds per game and already broke the school record by grabbing 23 rebounds in one game against the University of San Francisco. Kuhns has posted six double-doubles in the first nine games. She earned a career high in points this year against Fresno State when she dropped 30 points to go along with 11 rebounds.

“Kylie plays the game fearlessly,” said head coach Jamie Craighead. “She focuses on being an elite athlete and because of all of her work to be in top physical condition, she is capable of playing against anyone. She is disciplined and goal oriented and strives to be as good as she can possibly be. Ky is a true competitor and has been a consistent force to be reckoned with for our opponents.”

The fearless and physical style that Kuhns plays with can be attributed to her experience in martial arts. Kuhns participated in Tae Kwon Do for eight years as a youth, where she competed in the Junior National Olympics, the highest level of competition for that age group.

When Kuhns was younger she struggled with self-confidence and was very shy around her peers. She attributes this to a “separative anxiety” that she felt when apart from her mother.

“Anytime I would leave her side, I would crawl into a shell,” Kuhns said. “I wasn’t confident with who I was and it would show up in school. I was a very quiet kid.”

Kuhns’ mother knew she loved to be active and participate in sports so she enrolled her daughter in Tae Kwon Do. During one of Kuhns’ first Tae Two Do classes, she had an embarrassing moment that almost had call it quits with her martial arts career.

“The sense i would make one of us count or sing while the class stretched and one day I was chosen,” Kuhns said. “I walked out of class and started crying because I didn’t like that attention. But eventually I learned that I needed the confidence to carry myself through those situations. I’m still a quiet person, but I’m now able to step out of my shell and voice myself on and off the court.”

Kuhns’ quiet style of leadership has been embraced by her teammates as they look to her to be the teams spark plug of energy.

“She leads by showing us her effort on the court and that motivates all of us,” said sophomore forward Mallorie Franco. “When she talks, we all know it’s important and we should listen because she doesn’t talk much.”

As far as her Tae Kwon Do skills go, that is also something that her teammates have come to rely on.

“We joke around about it a lot and it’s awesome,” Franco said. “When we’re in a dark alley we joke and say, “OK, where’s Ky?'”

Surprisingly enough, Kuhns is not the only one on the team this year with martial arts experience. Freshman Jordan Kealoha also has a martial arts background and the debate on who can take who is a bit one-sided.

When asked of the martial arts showdown between the two, Franco replied, “Sorry -Jordan, my money is on Kylie.”

When Kuhns was asked of the possible match she smiled and said, “I would take her, without a doubt.”

As Kuhn embarks on what appears to be a record-breaking sophomore campaign, her teammates are already talking about the high ceiling that their dominant post player’s future entails.

“I think she’ll be one of the best Sac State athletes of all time by the time she graduates,” Franco said. “I think she is already on that pace, since she played so much as a freshman and now what she is doing as a sophomore.”

When asked about her future, Kuhn says she is going to continue on the path with what has already gotten her this far.

“I work really hard,” Kuhn said. “I’m athletic, but I’m not the most athletic on our team and I rely on my work ethic. I’m not the fastest on the team; I’m not the best shooter. I’m a 5-foot-11 post, which is really short, I’m not the most physically gifted, but I work hard and make for it with effort. I make hustle plays. My baskets are never the prettiest plays, but they still count.”

Brad Schmidt can be reached at [email protected]