She didn’t have much choice in the matter, but as a youngster, Hailey Kendall received a rigorous education in the sport of basketball.
She spent countless hours in local gymnasiums with her family watching older brother Nathan, five years her senior, play for a particularly memorable edition of the Yale Secondary senior boys squad. Nathan was a key contributor on a star-studded Lions team which won the B.C. AAA championship in 2008, his Grade 12 year.
As the siblings grew older, they would train together on occasion – big brother nit-picking little sister’s game.
“It’s mostly Nathan pushing me,” Hailey said. “We’ll work on shooting, dribbling, little things that I didn’t know about that he’s learned.
“I used to take it as an insult when he said I was doing things wrong. But now I take it as a compliment. He’s noticing things I can do better.”
Hailey, now putting the finishing touches on her own senior year at Yale Secondary, is reaping the benefits these days. The 17-year-old recently landed a scholarship from the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team, and she’s following in Nathan’s footsteps – he just finished his second year of eligibility with the UFV men’s squad.
“Watching him go from middle school to high school to university kind of got me familiar with higher-level basketball,” said Hailey, reflecting on her brother’s influence on her own hoops career. “I used to have such a narrow vision, but I got to see what it took to play at that level.”
Nathan and Hailey boast similarly versatile skill sets – they’re both able to handle the ball and shoot from outside.
But what really gets UFV women’s coach Al Tuchscherer fired up about Hailey’s game is her defensive prowess.
“Probably her biggest offensive weapon is her defence, and I think that’ll translate to the next level,” he said of his newest recruit, who helped the Lions senior girls to a provincial AAA championship berth last season and to within one win of a return trip this year.
“I think she’s outstanding – a lot of things she does really appeal to me. She’s a hard-nosed type player, she’s a fantastic defender, and she’s really worked the past two or three years to turn herself into a pretty nice offensive threat.”
Nathan’s evaluation of his sister’s basketball skills obliterates any notion of sibling rivalry.
“I like her game,” he said, “She’s really good defensively, she can shoot, she can dribble. She’s a better high school player than I was.”
Nathan, 22, is coming off a breakout season of his own at UFV.
After playing sparingly as a freshman in 2010-11 and redshirting in 2011-12, he emerged as a key contributor for the Cascades.
His season hit a speed bump in mid-February, when it was discovered that his eligibility – unbeknownst to anyone – had lapsed on Feb. 1 and that he’d subsequently suited up for four games. The Cascades were stripped of two wins they’d earned during that stretch, and Nathan was suspended an additional four games.
But he still finished fourth in team scoring (9.3 points per game) and third in rebounding (5.4), and was ninth in the Canada West conference in three-point percentage, knocking down 41.6 per cent of his shots from downtown.
Perhaps his biggest contribution was his willingness to shift from his natural wing position to play centre as the Cascades weathered a series of key injuries this season. Standing 6’4″, he’s giving up three inches and 50 pounds to many of the players he’s guarding.
“He’s willing to compete down low and put his body on the line against guys so much bigger than him,” UFV men’s coach Adam Friesen said.
“We value every minute he’s on the floor. He’s been playing just terrific this year. His energy level just never seems to go away.”
Nathan attributes his breakthrough to many long hours in the gym with Friesen during his redshirt year, honing his skills. While he’s in tough trying to guard traditional post players, his outside shooting and ball-handling ability make him a mismatch for opposing big men on the offensive end.
“In that situation, my mouth shouts watering almost,” he said with a grin. “In my head, I’ll be like, ‘Yes, I’ve got this.'”
There’s another Kendall in the pipeline – younger brother Ashton is in Grade 11 at Yale, and he played for the provincial U16 team last summer.
And you’d better believe Hailey gets on his case, the same way Nathan did/does with her.
“Sometimes I’ll scorekeep his games and Ashton will come on for a sub, and I’ll be like, ‘Ashton, that guy can’t dribble with his left hand – take away his right,'” she said. “It’s nice to be able to give him advice that he can use.”