Nov. 4, 2013
Kayla McDowell isn't your typical college freshman. Through the guidance of accomplished coaching mentors and the pressures of facing stiff competition in the Cincinnati area, the 6-foot-2 forward will launch her first season at Mizzou loaded with experience.
McDowell was a four-year starter for Rob Matula at Mason High School. Matula, who has recorded over 200 wins in his prestigious coaching tenure, groomed McDowell into the player she is today. Together, they led the Comets to their first regional title in over a decade in 2012. McDowell was named to the Cincinnati Enquirer's All-Area team after solidifying a 1000-point career in her senior season.
"Coach Matula pushed me to be the best player and helped me become a good leader for our team," McDowell said. "He definitely cares about all of his players on and off the court."
Matula wasn't the only important coaching influence along the way for McDowell. Missouri women's basketball assistant coach Michael Porter is a family friend. He helped convince McDowell to make a trip out West to rural Missouri and take a peek at Robin Pingeton's rising program. Once she finally came on a visit, McDowell says she fell in love with Mizzou right away.
"I just loved the coaches and I got a good feel for the players," McDowell said. "They're just the girls I wanted to be around and the people I wanted to surround myself with."
So far, McDowell has settled in nicely at Mizzou. She saw significant action in the Tigers' first exhibition game, chipping in 11 points in 13 efficient minutes off the bench.
The versatile forward looks to be a threat in multiple ways during her four years in Columbia. She says she likes to get out in transition and run the floor, but also wants to excel with her back to the basket when the team runs half court sets. No matter how she will make an impact, McDowell says she's willing to embrace any role the coaches give her.
"I'm going to put all my effort into everything," McDowell said. "If it means practicing as hard as I can, that's what I'll do. I'll obviously try and compete for playing time, but I'm willing to accept whatever role I need to play."
Off the court, McDowell is just as prepared for the college level. She maintained a 3.9 GPA in high school, earning Dean's List honors in three years. As of now, she isn't certain what her major will end up being by graduation, but knows that she wants to work with kids in the future.
For now, McDowell hopes to benefit from the resources Mizzou provides academically and continue to improve on the court. She says it's been a big help learning from senior captain and fellow forward Bri Kulas.
"The whole summer (Bri) did a great job of including me and helping me learn the ropes," McDowell said. "She's a great teammate and someone I definitely look up to on the floor. I think we have similar styles of play, she's very versatile and I hope to become as versatile as her someday."
With a wealth of experience under her belt and the right frame of mind moving forward, McDowell is poised for success whenever her name is called upon. She and the Tigers will be back in action Nov. 3 in an exhibition matchup with Quincy (Ill.).