Humber has a Winner in Kia Watt
Kia Watt believed she had never won anything.
Growing up in Toronto, running along a nearby creek and throughout her neighborhood, Kia Watt never had an interest in picking up a basketball, until her sister Chante did.
Then she played all day long, as did her twin brother, Kevon.
Though the two never competed against each other, comparisons became inevitable- unfavorable comparisons.
“Honestly, it stems from my brother being good. A lot of people compared us, and I don’t like that. I don’t like that at all,” Kia said.
She set out to substantially improve with hopes that the comparisons would cease. Kia spent countless hours practicing on her own and working on her skills. She played in pick-up games with her friends. And she did it. She got better.
But people still noted that Kevon played faster and tougher. So, she tried harder and trained longer, and… it did not matter. She couldn’t win.
Nobody seemed to ever comment on her consistent dedication. Still, she continued trying
to be her best.
Kia joined a girls team in sixth grade leaving no room for direct comparison between her and Kevon. With that Kia had one goal: to have fun.
Keeping that pressure free mindset, Kia and her team won game after game. Having fun led Kia to win the rivalry game against Brookview Middle School and move on to the playoffs. Kia and her friend, Ivy were the go-to shooters.
During the championship game, the ball met her hands, and she would normally seal two points with a layup. This time she contemplated. That second guessing led to a turnover. Ultimately, without Kia confident to be the go-to shooter, their opponent finished with more points.
The undefeated, fun season came to end. Kia realized having fun wouldn’t be enough.
“Because when we did lose, we knew we shouldn’t have lost that game.”
That night, she sat in her room upset about the loss. Kia could not understand why she fell short of achievement again.
In that moment she decided to focus on winning next year’s middle school championship.
That would make her the best. She finally would have something that could not be compared to Kevon, an accomplishment of her own.
Shortly, thereafter, a rumor spread throughout the school about teachers possibly going on strike. Kia and her teammates remained unbothered by the gossip. Instead, they continued to practice and work on playing as a team.
The summer after sixth grade became an opportunity to get ahead of the seventh-grade season. This meant running, practicing, and having her hands on a basketball as much as possible.
Kia’s teammates told themselves that hard work in the summer would pay off quickly in the fall during school season. Although a possibility of no season, the team never lost hope.
Kia and her team counted down the days until classes began, ecstatic and ready for after school basketball practice.
The phone rang. Kia’s mom answered. Seeing the expression on her mom’s face, Kia’s heart sank. She knew. Classrooms would not be filled. Practices would not be held. Her middle school teachers ended up striking, leaving students with no school sports.
An opportunity to prove herself suddenly taken away. Another year of comparison before Kia could reveal the better player she had become.
A determined little Kia played five on five during lunch at a community center across the street from her school. In addition, she joined a rec team called Genesis. She practically lived on the basketball court for an entire year in order to try and improve.
Finally, eighth grade came around and Kia showed up ready. Her middle school team prepared to have their revenge. The time had come.
Each game in the season ticked off the schedule with a “W” written next to it.
When the championship game rolled around, Kia questioned if she and her team had put in enough work. Kia became unsure whether she could be the go-to player she had been all season. With game time approaching, she would quickly find out.
Taking deep breaths, Kia pretended she was playing at the community center with her best friend Ivy. Their groove set in, and Kia’s teammates assisted. When the ball landed in her hands, she second guessed herself. But only for a split-second. Shaking her head and without additional thinking she took the shot.
It landed in the hoop.
And so did another shot she took.
And… Kia and her team won the game. Conference champions.
Yet she claims she had not won anything. Why? Well, Kevon won a lot too. And he learned and grew. During the times when people actually spoke of Kia, they often shifted to discussing Kevon.
Becoming a Reality:
Freshman year arrived and Kia decided to try out for her high school’s junior varsity team. Kevon, who always exuded confidence in his ability, opted to play on a junior team in the senior division. Although brand new to high school basketball, Kevon would play alongside and against upperclassmen players.
He nobly encouraged Kia to try out for her school’s varsity team that also had older competitors.
“I wanted her to play a few years up because I knew she could be a huge contribution to the older team,” Kevon said.
Kia did not know if she even had the confidence to ask the coach to let her try.
She summoned all her courage and approached the coach.
Maybe the coach believed in her more than she believed in herself.
She asked for permission to attend the varsity tryout.
The coach thought it over.
And said no - she would not allow a mere freshman.
Kia felt devastated and her thoughts of never being a winner became confirmed.
As for that freshman season on JV: “Pretty sure we lost… I haven’t won anything in my life.” But of course. She never won anything.
Yet Kia took that rejection and disappointment and turned it into motivation. She worked all off season to become faster, stronger, and smarter.
In tenth grade, she showed up to tryouts knowing she could play at a varsity level, but with a very non-Kevon-like lack of overwhelming confidence.
Waiting to hear who made varsity, Kia became anxious. Those minutes before the teams were posted proved to be painstaking. Would she have to spend the next year putting in even more work to prove she could play at a higher level?
The coach released the names on the varsity and JV teams. She checked the varsity list. Scrolled down- not there. Scrolled further- not there. Scrolled all the way to the W’s- “Kia Watt.”
She made it.
Kia joined a different club basketball team the summer after her sophomore year of high school. With support and convincing from her new coaches and team, she started to believe collegiate basketball could be in her future.
Assured playing in college would assist her in becoming a great player especially compared to her brother, Kia became determined.
The coaching staff informed her of an opportunity to join a new program at Sault St. Mary Tech Academy. The only deterring factor of this private boarding school- its location in St. Mary, Ontario being seven long hours away from Kia’s home.
Certain this academy would prepare her for Division 1 competition and help her gain recognition, she packed her bags.
She became overjoyed with the experience encountered: three hearty meals a day, attentive coaching staff, and an opportunity to play in a tournament in the United States.
Shortly thereafter, the quality of the food substantially decreased. Kia, however, remained positive as she had a big U.S. competition coming up.
Hoping to gain collegiate attention, Kia had high expectations for the tournament. Although she played great, a snowstorm hit on the way home. The minivan driver could not see anything. Having to pullover and spend the night in a sketchy motel, Kia felt stranded.
“It was very traumatizing,” Kia said.
Yet Kia hung in there. A month or two later, something wholly unexpected happened.
“After December there was no basketball, no coaches, and no team basically,” Kia said.
She couldn’t believe the team so well advertised and encouraged, no longer existed. Another season of basketball taken away from her.
Details of what caused this shiny new basketball program’s downfall were unclear. Regardless, she knew that no basketball season during a pivotal high school year would be detrimental for college recruiting.
She had to transfer.
Before moving back home to a different high school, Kia needed her transcripts. She submitted a request to receive them from Sault St. Mary Tech Academy. This very easy process came with a bill: around a three thousand dollars for a processing fee.
Her mom spent money for the opportunity to play at this boarding school. With no anticipation of the program failing to provide a basketball season, her mother had no funds prepared to buy the transcripts- meaning no transfer, no basketball, and no college recruiting.
Just when she began contemplating giving up all interest in basketball, she received a call from the front desk of her residence hall. There had been mail with her name on it.
She received multiple letters from DePaul and Wagner University. Kia opened the letters to find that these Division 1 schools were interested in recruiting her.
She checked the post-marks.
Double checked. Yes, way back in September.
The coaches could have come watch Kia play during junior year. Yet she received the letters well after the season.
The dream of being a Division 1 athlete in her hands and she lost it.
Kia didn’t know what to do and no idea.
“I just assumed that those schools would try to contact me again and hope for the best, that’s pretty much it,” she said.
Kia had finally gotten more attention than her brother. The opportunity of securing a spot on a collegiate basketball team before Kevon, came and went before she knew it.
Out of Trust:
Those to whom she once looked to for guidance and where to go for the betterment of her career now felt unreliable.
“I didn’t really like basketball anymore and didn’t trust people,” Kia said.
She thought about acquiring a job, but she would never make enough money in time to transfer in the fall.
Her siblings were in no place to help her financially, with each focusing on their own schooling and basketball careers.
Kia’s mom had no more money saved after paying for a year at boarding school.
With no scholarships or way to afford transcripts, Kia lost all hope she would ever attend another high school, let alone college. She began shifting her thoughts to how to survive another school year with no basketball.
When she gave up, her community back in Toronto had spread the news, “Kia is not coming home.”
Word got around and one person had an idea.
“He set up a payment plan with my mom,” Kia said gratefully. That “he” was Coach Lionel Howell, Kia’s former club team coach.
Prayers went answered.
A Step Forward:
Thanks to Coach Howe, Kia transferred to Central Technical School in Toronto as a senior in high school.
“Deep down I didn’t want to just go to school. I had been playing basketball for so long, it would have felt weird not playing at all,” Kia said.
During this time, her twin brother, Kevon became a high school basketball star.
Compared to Kevon, Kia remained behind.
Kia then realized one thing held her back: her incessant desire to match or better her brother and end the comparison. That is when Kia remembered how much she loved playing basketball. Her senior season goal would not be to win, but just play again.
“Why not try to play in high school and try to enjoy it when I have some sort of love for the game when I had just one bad year,” Kia said about her motivation to continue playing.
She carried on. To keep playing after a terrible, dream crushing year is a win. Kia dusted off her basketball skills to prepare her for what would come in the future.
Though her team did a whole lot of losing, Kia finally viewed something as a win.
Fifth Year’s a Charm:
Kia made a goal at the end of grade 10 to play collegiate basketball, and Kia could have one more shot.
That shot- a fifth year in high school at Central Tech to gain attention from colleges.
Going into her first game as a super senior, her attitude remained positive. Yet loss after loss, that mindset became difficult to keep.
“The coaches only look if your team is good, right. Coaches only look at the best team or the top teams and we weren’t at the top at all,” Kia said.
Her older sister, Chante, who had a successful college basketball career for the University of Windsor and at York University, stepped in.
Believing so greatly in Kia, Chante reached out to her former high school teammate, Ceejay Nofuente. Ceejay, a Humber College women basketball star, put Chante in contact with the program.
“I figured that might be a right fit for Kia, as I’ve seen Ceejay and other friends and former teammates flourish in the program,” Chante said.
While communicating with Humber College, Kia found herself nervous about whether she could make such a life changing decision.
After noting the positive that it took a mere 30-minute drive to get to Humber from her home, she decided to tour the school. Immediately she became overwhelmed by the large college campus.
Her palms were sweating.
She took a deep breath and remembered how far she had come. Even stepping foot on college grounds was a win for her.
She met the coaching staff. Any feeling of anxiety left. Kia felt comfortable talking and
walking around with these coaches.
Kia knew that feeling of solace would support her new winning mindset.
Back at home, she could not imagine herself playing or attending anywhere other than Humber College.
Although she had her heart set, she still had to wait for the phone to ring. She began pacing thinking, “What if there is no spot for me?”
Shaking her head, she reminded herself that she will no longer think like that. Even having an opportunity to tour a school and have a basketball program interested in her showed how far she came.
The phone rang.
Humber College offered a spot on their women’s college basketball team.
She found a new home.
Experience at Humber College:
The team had great athletes which forced Kia to have to work harder if she wanted to play. She hoped for at least some nominal playing time, and she planned to score if she saw the court.
Specifically, she stayed more consistent and tried to understand her teammate’s habits when they scrimmaged, being one step ahead of them.
To be a great player is to be a great teammate constantly challenging her teammates. Which paid off.
She played more than she expected, proving to be a big accomplishment.
Although the team didn’t notch a conference win, the OCAA conference named her to the all- rookie team. Individual recognition for Kia. A win.
Next season the team spent time solidifying how to succeed as a group, winning the OCAA conference championship in 2022.
By the time her third season (2022-2023) came, Humber won often and usually by twenty points.
But facing Conestoga College in the quarterfinals, Humber remained down the majority of the game.
“The team came out with more fire than expected,” Kia said. Down until two minutes in the game, she had the lay-up to seal the win.
Then, in the finals against Lambton, the score went back and forth throughout the game.
Kia’s teammate stole the ball off the opponents’ rebound and kicked it to her so she could seal another game with a lay-up.
Two game sealing layups in the playoffs.
“My mindset had been changing… I know I’m good now,” Kia said.
She is a first-team all-star rookie, a two-time OCAA conference champion and a CCAA All-Canadian, one of the eight best players in the country. .
Kevon has reached success choosing a path outside of basketball, finding a career as a popular YouTube personality. The siblings no longer have the commonality of basketball in their lives. Now when the twins are talked about, they are in different conversations describing each of their achievements.
More importantly, Kia feels comfortable putting the word “winner” in the same sentence as the name “Kia Watt.”
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