Jake Kyman is demonstrating where life can lead a young basketball player when great height is inherited, intense work ethic is ingrained and pure talent is developed.
Just a freshman in high school, Kyman has parlayed those characteristics into a starting role on the Santa Margarita varsity team. It’s a responsibility the 6-foot-7 Kyman never envisioned when he first set foot on campus and one he doesn’t plan to let go.
“Everything that I’ve done has exceeded what I thought it would be,” Kyman says of his freshman experience.
Consider his 22-point performance Jan. 20 in his first game against Servite, when Kyman scored his team’s first 11 points in the 72-51 victory. Or the 12 points and 10 rebounds he produced five days earlier in his first meeting with Mater Dei, the top team in the county.
His sudden rise on the Orange County high school basketball scene has many predicting Kyman will be leading the next wave of great players from the region.
His parents certainly believe he’s something special, and they would know, as both were successful college athletes.
Coley Kyman was a 6-6 quarterback for the Cal State Northridge football team from 1989-93 and also played four years at middle blocker for the volleyball team, leading the Matadors to the NCAA championship match in 1993. His mother was a 6-2 middle blocker at UCLA from 1991-95, when she went by her maiden name of Michelle Mauney.
“Probably around sixth grade is when I kind of figured it out,” Coley says of Jake. “He was going to be pretty good.”
Being a good player might get an underclassman on the varsity, but it takes considerably more to join the starting five at that age.
During his early years, Kyman was always the tallest player on his teams, so it was natural for coaches to want him close to the basket.
But under the tutelage of June Banks and his 5onfive Basketball club, Kyman developed skills that he could use further away from the hoop, such as perimeter shooting, ball handling and passing. As he neared high school, Kyman began playing more on the wing while still maintaining his clever rebounding skills and ability to score in the paint.
Kyman learned the proper methods of playing defense too, another skill that helped get his name in the starting lineup in Santa Margarita’s season opener.
“I earned it,” Kyman says of his starting nod. “It wasn’t just given to me.”
Just before he started high school, Kyman was also handed a taste of adversity. He went through a two-month stretch in which his game simply fell apart. He was missing easy shots, committing careless turnovers and felt like he didn’t belong on the court.
But his father reminded him to keep working, the same advice Coley followed after suffering a severe ankle injury while playing football against San Diego State in the 1993 season opener. The injury ended his football career, but not his determination to keep playing volleyball.
After the injury healed, Coley played volleyball overseas for another two years before transitioning into coaching full time.
“They’ve always given me advice to keep pushing and be determined to get through it,” Jake says of his parents. “After that slump I was in, I got better and became the player I am today.”