Kayla McPherson has yet to play a game for the North Carolina women’s basketball team, but the sidelines don’t stop her from putting into practice a lesson she learned from her Amateur Athletic Union coach, Chad Hubbard — be the loudest person in the gym.
“Imma be loud,” McPherson said. “Imma be that energy.”
McPherson spent all of last season recovering from a knee injury suffered in high school. On Oct. 10, the team announced that she would miss at least the nonconference portion of the upcoming season due to a different lower-body injury sustained in practice.
Despite these injuries, head coach Courtney Banghart and teammates Deja Kelly and Kennedy Todd-Williams cited the redshirt first-year as a player that will surprise some people when she returns, just a day after UNC broke the news about McPherson at the 2022 ACC Tipoff.
Junior forward Alexandra Zelaya said the former McDonald’s All-American’s athleticism is so freakish that it can only be felt by seeing her in person. According to Zelaya, McPherson first arrived in Chapel Hill injured, but could still jump higher and run faster than everyone.
Zelaya also described McPherson as a quarterback who sees passes no one else considers as an option. She also draws inspiration from the redshirt first-year’s dedication.
“The biggest thing that she's taught me is intent,” Zelaya said. “If you're tired, just make sure you're extra intentional with everything that you do. She really focuses on the details.”
Still, major injuries can put an athlete’s motivation through the wringer of self-doubt and negativity.
“You get to a point where you start to feel better physically and you can do things and you've got the bad cop like me saying, ‘Nope, you're not allowed to do that yet,’” Jodi Schneider, the head athletic trainer of UNC women’s basketball, said.