For as long as she can remember, Kayla Alexander’s hands have always found their way to a pen and paper. First drawing and then later designing and writing her own stories has become the story of her own life, in addition to becoming a professional basketball player. When she wasn’t sketching or writing, that pen and paper were replaced with a basketball. Today, the 31-year-old Canadian is currently living out her basketball dreams in Russia, playing for Dynamo Novosibirsk Region in the Russia PBL.
She’s also a published author and public speaker. When she isn’t suiting up for a game or working on her skills in practice, she’s now using her creativity to solve a problem all too familiar in her own life as a woman standing 6-foot-4 tall.
Alexander, along with sister, Kesia, and best friend, Nicole Murphy, have created an online platform for women who are looking for tall clothes. The site makes the shopping process easier for the consumer, while also supporting small businesses, including many Black-owned small businesses, something that Alexander is passionate about.
“It’s something we've all struggled with, so we're basically our own customer,” Alexander said of the site, Tallsize.com, where shoppers who need the extra length can find all of the latest fashion options available in one place.
“It’s been a great, fun learning process. And most importantly,I love seeing the positive feedback we're getting from fellow Canadians at home in general,” she said. “We're just thankful for the platform that we've created. Being able to also help small businesses, because a lot of the specialty stores are small businesses and a majority [are owned] by women and women of colour, too, is great. That's a good way of uplifting women too, which is awesome.”
Though this is her first foray into the retail experience, Alexander’s greatest passions have always been rooted in helping others. The National Youth Mentorship Program of Canada announced this Monday that Alexander was their Mentor of the Year, tweeting that for the second straight year, she received the most nominations for her outstanding work and daily commitment to youth and families in their program.
Alexander can often be found speaking with younger athletes, or joining zoom calls with aspiring athletes, sharing her own journey through sports and showing all that basketball can bring. She says she couldn’t have ever envisioned all of the places that basketball has taken her in her own pro career when she first fell in love with the game.
“Honestly, when I picked up the ball for the first time, I never could have thought this was what God had in store [for me],” she said.
Alexander has been enjoying her season in Russia and says she loves her teammates. Prior to the season tipping off, she and her sister travelled together to Spain and Italy to enjoy some time together before another season overseas. Because Alexander is often away from her family because of the basketball season, getting to find ways to stay in touch is important to her.
“When I'm home with my family, I try to take advantage of that time to be intentional because I know I don't get much time right now,” she said. “We all know you can't play sports forever. You have a small window to play and my family and my friends understand that.”Alexander’s younger brother, Kyle, is playing for Fuenlabrada in the Spanish Liga ACB. With a six-year age gap between the two siblings, sharing the experience of life as a pro basketball player has been special for them both.
“It's funny because I feel like Kyle and I are in the same stage of life,” Alexander said. “For the longest time, because of our age difference, we were always missing each other. He was going to elementary school, I was going to high school. When he was in high school, I'm already off to college. Now that we're in the same area of life and our careers, the conversation, just hearing our experiences, it's been different, but I love it.
Like his sister, Kyle has represented Canada with the Senior Men’s National Team.
“I love seeing him do so well,” Alexander said. “I love seeing him being successful at [basketball], and just the strides he's made so far. It's great to see. I love it.”
Up next, Alexander is expected to head to Japan next week in preparation for the Senior Women’s FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Qualifying Tournament. Though it will require a four-hour flight to Paris and then an 11-hour flight from there to arrive in Japan, Alexander says that’s light work compared to some of the other travel days she has had travelling for Canada Basketball and when given the choice, she’s always down for a long flight if it means getting to represent Canada and spend time with her fellow national team teammates.
“I'm always thankful that they’ve been able to create a safe environment yet again for us to go out and compete,” Alexander said of the upcoming tournament. “I'm looking forward to seeing the Canadian women on the team, connecting with them and then it's going to be different because we have a new head coach and assistant coach. We have Víctor [Lapeña] and Noelle [Quinn] that are coming in and I'm looking forward to seeing what their coaching styles are, their style of play, and their vision with respect to how they want us to play on the court.”
This next window for the Canadian women will open with the players and the new additions to the coaching staff having only a handful of practice time together in person, but that hasn’t dimmed Alexander’s excitement.
“You always have to find a way to make it work [with professional sports],” she said. “I’m sure it will be a fun experience for everybody involved and I’m pretty sure everybody will be looking forward to getting back in the basketball environment.”
Whether it’s a two-hour flight or two days of flights, Alexander is always ready when Canada calls her name.
“Competing for your country,” she said. “It’s always a joy. And an honour.”