What does forward Kayla Charles hope to accomplish during her time with the St. John’s University Red Storm?
“I want to have my face on the wall, Like Chris Mullin,” she said.
The Far Rockaway native and her teammates have had a successful season, with a 12-10 overall record.
“We have enough talent where we can go far and win a championship,” Charles said. “I feel like everybody has their own thing that they bring to the table that makes them special, so it’s really cool to have all of that around you all the time.”
Before joining St. John’s, Charles played for a year at William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City, averaging 13.5 points and 10.4 rebounds. St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella seemed positive before the season that Charles’s height and technique would benefit the team.
“Kayla has incredible length and athleticism and reminds me so much of Amber Thompson when she was in high school,” he said in a St. John’s news release. “She will provide us with versatility all over the floor on both ends and has an incredible ability to rebound the ball.”
Unlike two of her four siblings, who landed scholarships to play for South Carolina and Virginia, Charles knew she wanted to stay close to home after high school.
“My mom was never able to come to any of my high school games because of work and her hours, so her major thing was that she always wanted to watch me play college ball,” she said.
In addition to staying in Queens for her family, she chose St. John’s for its criminal justice program. She envisions becoming an FBI detective. Growing up, she said, she wanted to be a police officer, but her mother pointed toward the FBI for the money and relative security. “It’s a little less dangerous than being a cop,” Charles said.
Asked if she has any hobbies outside basketball and classes, Charles put it simply: “No.”
“I’ll say I want to get away from basketball,” she said, “but the moment I have free time I’m just like: ‘I’m bored, I want to go the gym and play basketball.’”
Perhaps what fuels this passion is her family of athletes. According to St. John’s athletics, before switching to basketball, Charles even played volleyball for her first three years of high school in Far Rockaway.
Her brother, she said, ultimately sparked her interest in basketball.
“I definitely had the mind-set of being the next Serena Williams, so my brother got stuck with me one day, and it was just basketball from there,” she said.
As a female basketball player, Charles is no stranger to the pressures and biases most female athletes face. Women’s basketball tends to be overlooked in the world of sports, but Charles doesn’t let that faze her.
“I figure people rather watch guys dunk on each other, rather than watching girls run up and down and just lay up,” she said. “I mean, it’s understandable, but at the same time, if you look at the stats, girls are really better than the guys.”
Regardless, Charles continues to have big plans for her basketball career. She suggests other aspiring female basketball athletes do the same.
“It’s going to be tough,” she said, “but if you’re dedicated, you should stick with it.”