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FEATURE

How Kylie Galloway steered two American kids towards the NBL

Written for nbl.com.au by Tom Hersz

Life can take you in unexpected directions.

For Kylie Galloway (née Page), who is the mother of Kyrin (New Zealand Breakers) and Jaylin (Sydney Kings) Galloway, her life changed direction once she was in college as a basketball player. Growing up in Melbourne and coming up through the Nunawading Spectres, Galloway originally went to San Jose State before transferring to the University of Hawaii.

It was there, in her sophomore year, that her life really changed when she found out she was pregnant with Kyrin.

“Actually, funny story,” she told NBL Media from Queensland.

“I had a season-ending injury when I was a sophomore. I just had an upset stomach and I went and made sure that I was going to be okay. Well, they told me I was pregnant and then that day at practice, I ended up blowing my ankle out.

“So, as far as changing my life, it was like it was meant to be because I was already planning on sitting out that year due to the injury, and I just knew that there was no way I could not have the baby, regardless of what was happening.

“So, I had Kyrin and then life as I knew it changed. Priorities changed I guess; I was always basketball, basketball, basketball and now here came this little person that took up all my time. And I had to try to fit in him, basketball and then studying at the same time.

“I was fortunate enough to have an amazing support group around me. He travelled with me, went on the road trips until he was like a year [old] and then he stayed with one of my teammate’s Mum when I was away for my junior and senior year, so I was really, really lucky.”

When you’re trying to maximise your potential as a player and get the most out of your time in college, becoming a Mum is not part of the plan and figuring out how to balance motherhood and basketball, plus study, could have been really difficult.

Fortunately for Galloway, she had some great support which really helped – as did Kyrin’s temperament as a baby.

“I think I lucked out with the kind of baby Kyrin was,” explained Kylie.

“He could be taken anywhere. He came to all the practices, if I had an early morning five o’clock, the softball coach was one of my good friends, so she came around in the morning time and climbed in the bed with him. So, it didn’t change for me because I was able to still do everything that I was able to do and everything was really close in Hawaii, and it was such a close support group, so that was my saving grace.

“I don’t think I would have been able to do it if it was just me, cos Erin, my husband at the time was actually away playing still; he was playing overseas.

“So, I think whereas before, I would have been in the gym in all my spare time shooting, and I still tried to do that as much as I could, but obviously I couldn’t go when it was his naptime or things of nature. So, it changed in that aspect, but for the most part, it remained relatively the same.”

Kyrin was born in 1999 and then Jaylin was born in 2002. The Galloway brothers were raised in Georgia; it was very different to how Kylie grew up. While the development pathways in Australia start with club teams and then representative basketball through your local association, in the US it is largely centred around school teams and then the AAU system.

Kyrin and Jaylin grew up in the latter and Kylie wasn’t necessarily a fan.

“I think the junior pathways here [in Australia] are phenomenal and from a development standpoint, they outdo the American system over there,” she said.

“They don’t have the same kind of club teams that we have over here, they have the AAU system which, in my opinion, is just a money-making scheme. Whereas here, it’s really concentrating on the development side of things and fundamentals, before you start to do all that crazy in between the legs, behind the back, but I can’t score with the left hand yet, but I’m going to try to do all these things.

“I think if Jaylin had been here, the developmental process would have been better for him and we just happened to luck out getting him into the [Basketball Australia] CoE for one year before he signed with Sydney.

“And then Kyrin, he didn’t even actually play until he was fourteen. He was a tennis player before that and he started playing his sophomore year in High School.”

So, for someone who grew up in a completely different system, when her sons started to take an interest in basketball, despite having an American husband, it was quite difficult to navigate how best to support their development in the game as teenagers.

And especially when it came to Kyrin who ultimately decided he wanted to play collegiately, it was hard to know how best to help him achieve that goal.

“Yes, it was,” admitted Kylie.

“Because over in America, it’s very much about being on the right team during the summer to get exposure, which isn’t necessarily the best team environment.

"So yes, it was difficult. I would have preferred that he was over here playing in club teams, playing in state teams, getting exposure at the Australian championships, cos there are so many coaches now that come over to recruit internationally.”

After completing her college career, Kylie returned to Australia to play professionally in the WNBL. She played for the Townsville Fire where she was their most valuable player in their inaugural season in 2001/02.

Later that year, Galloway gave birth to Jaylin in the U.S. and then about a month later returned to Townsville to re-join the team for the end of the regular season and their finals run.

Their father Erin, also played professionally, including for the Harlem Globetrotters. So, it would stand to reason that growing up in those kinds of environments may have helped Kyrin and Jaylin in their own professional journeys, but Kylie doesn’t see it that way.

“I really don’t think so actually,” she clarified.

“I think actually it affected Kyrin negatively. He didn’t really want to be part of basketball; he wanted something different. Because I think, from a competitive standpoint on the basketball court, I’m so competitive, that when he decided to pick up even a little basketball when he was like five [years old], I was like ‘nope, you’ve got to have it in your palm, you’ve got to do it this way’, instead of just letting the poor kid enjoy basketball and have fun. So, I think [it affected] Kyrin detrimentally.

“Jaylin, I kind of took a step off with Jaylin cos I saw how it had affected Kyrin a little bit earlier; like being so competitive. And then he [Jaylin] just paved his way there because he just enjoyed the game. And they didn’t really know that Mum and Dad played, they didn’t know anything about college or any of that.

“So, I want to say yeah, we had some hand in that, but I really don’t think we did. I think it’s just something they wanted to do themselves and it just happened that we had the understanding and expertise to try and guide them through certain situations”

Another side of basketball that Kylie has played a major role in is refereeing.

When she returned to the United States after her WNBL stint, Kylie had planned on coaching after doing a little bit of it in Townsville. She knew she wanted to be around the game and thought that was the best way.

But she was kind of pushed in a different direction towards becoming a referee.

She had a teammate from Hawaii who went on to become a big-time referee in both the WNBA and women’s college – working the National Championships a few times.

“So, I was going to try to coach when I got back to America,” said Galloway.

“And she said ‘No, you should try officiating.’ And I said … I won’t tell you what I said cos there were lots of profanities. But I said pretty much ‘Hell no. I hated refs. They were like the dark side and there’s no way that I would ever want to do that.’ But she said ‘Trust me. Try it.’

“So, I went to this little referee training camp and then I ran up and down, blew my whistle and thought I knew what I was doing. I was like ‘this is amazing, I love this.’ There’s no stress.

“I mean yeah, you get yelled at, but you don’t care who wins or loses, you don’t have to worry about parents asking why their kid isn’t playing – every parent thinks their kid is the next Michael Jordan or Lauren Jackson. So, it was just a really cool way to stay around the game.

“And I was really kind of good at it, cos I was the dirtiest, sneakiest player and I knew all the tricks. There was no fooling this one; I was the master of all of them. So, I found the transition very smooth.”

Galloway, who still resides in Atlanta, Georgia, has been a women’s collegiate official for 14 years now, refereeing in Division 1 in some of the biggest conferences up and down the east coast of the States.

Naturally, when she watches NBL and WNBL, she can’t help but compare the refereeing to what she’s used to in the NCAA. She has seen Australian refereeing come a long way, but also believes there is still a lot of room for improvement in the development pathways available.

“Actually, funny thing,” she explained.

“Before I left, I said to my husband ‘I’m going to see if there’s a way to talk to somebody and try to figure out how we can place the developmental programs that we have in America, here in Australia.’ Because I feel like the referees from a standpoint of seeing enough plays and having instruction from the really elite officials is lacking here.

“The opportunity to make a full-time job as an official just does not exist. So, you can’t really fault these referees that go out there and give it their all, but then they have full-time jobs and they have families.

“I don’t know what the solution to that is. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about since I’ve been here, but maybe a camp with some elite referees from college and the NBA coming over here and even just teaching the basics of refereeing the defence, verticality plays or breaking down film; things that non-referees really don’t think about, I think would be absolutely beneficial across the board.”

Kylie also spent time around the game supporting her sons as they pursued their own basketball careers.

It wasn’t inevitable that they’d end up playing in Australia though, despite their Australian heritage from their Mum. And so, their pathways to the NBL were quite different.

Kyrin was part of the Emerging Boomers team that took bronze at the 2019 Summer Universiade (World University Games) in Italy. It was there, with one year remaining in college, that he started to get noticed in Australian basketball circles.

“Kyrin had an opportunity to play in the World University Games through an Assistant Coach of his at UNC Greensboro. He knew the coach, so he was able to get into the door that way and Kyrin wanted to go to college.

“Jaylin thought he wanted to go to college and then he decided that he wanted to play professionally, so I’m really good friends with David Patrick and he reached out to the CoE coaches at the time.

“And I was trying to relay to Jaylin that this is what he wants. Anybody who plays in Australia, this is what they want. They want to be there. It was 24-7 basketball and Jaylin had graduated high school too, so he didn’t have to study for that hole year that he was there. So, I was like ‘You’re going to be right there, you can work out any time.’

“It wasn’t hard to sell him on the idea, especially because he wanted to break into the international scene over here. But growing up in America he didn’t really understand just how great an experience it was going to be. But it’s been the best thing for both of them really.”

Kyrin signed with the New Zealand Breakers out of college back in 2020. He signed a three-year deal with the first as a development player and the next two fully contracted. Kyrin has just completed the second year of that deal.

In his second season, he averaged 10 minutes per game, mostly spot minutes as a back-up big behind Yanni Wetzell and Finn Delany.

Jaylin, who is a wing, signed with the Sydney Kings as a development player for NBL21 and then re-upped with them for a further three years ahead of this current season. Like Kyrin, the first year of the deal is as a DP, with the next two years being fully contracted.

He saw the floor in 14 games in the NBL22 regular season, but played over 10 minutes just twice. Jaylin was also named to the Boomers team for the recent FIBA qualifiers in February.

Of course, Kylie, who calls Atlanta home, hadn’t been able to watch either of her sons play live due to travel restrictions during the pandemic.

As both of her sons were beginning their professional journeys, she had to watch from afar.

“It’s been tough not to be able to come and visit and be a part of their experience,” admitted Kylie.

“I think Jaylin’s situation has been a better one for him because of where he is in Sydney and obviously the Breakers went through two years of absolute craziness, being away from a home and a foundation, and living out of a suitcase.

“But, not being able to be there, not only for basketball, but also for the tough times that life throws at you, especially with Kyrin and his first professional experience, trying to make him understand that it’s not always going to be like this, and it’s just a tough time with COVID.

“Thank goodness for Kayo Sports and being able to FaceTime and stay in touch.”

As a former pro player, most parents would naturally have an opinion on how their kids are playing. Perhaps critique aspects of their game or at least try to give some advice before or after they play.

Kylie used to do that, but that’s changed over time.

“Not anymore,” she explained.

“I used to and then, especially being so far away, they just want Mum I think. They just want that support, so I’ve tried to go the support route and it’s always ‘good win’.

“If they open up the door, then I let loose, but I wait until they make that first move rather than me being the one that nit-picks and critiques, versus just being Mum.”

There’ll be no critiquing at the moment from Kylie as Jaylin and his Kings try to capture the first Sydney title since 2005. There will just be cheering and support.

Kylie, who is in Queensland currently, hopes to make it down to Sydney during the Grand Final series and naturally, as mother’s do, had some advice for him.

“I’m trying to get down for that third game in Sydney,” she said.

“But for Jaylin, it’s a little different advice because he never knows when his opportunities are going to come, so I just constantly tell him to be ready. No matter what, be the best teammate on the sidelines and be ready to go.

“Sometimes that energy that you bring on the sidelines feeds onto the court and this is just a phenomenal experience to be playing in the NBL Grand Final.”

The Kings lead the series 1-0, with game two this afternoon in Hobart. With Jaylen Adams out, it will not be an easy ride for the Kings to get one win closer to glory. But, whatever the outcome, Kylie is just proud of her son.

In fact, she’s extremely proud of both of her sons and their journeys so far. It wasn’t easy to choose her proudest moment for each of her sons as a Basketball Mum, but Kylie was able to reflect and do just that.

“For Kyrin, I think the greatest moment as a basketball Mum was actually his senior game for his last game at the UNCG Coliseum.

“Just the standing ovation and the fan support that he got when he came out and how much they loved him, and how much he had grown. To see him grow from a young freshman and not just the growth as a basketball player, but as a human being was phenomenal for me.

“For Jaylin, I think it might have been the first time that he got selected to represent an Australian team. Kyrin too. Just having that – the representation of the Green and Gold and that somehow I had a little bit to do with that, even if it’s [just] giving you the Aussie blood. I’ll take it.

“I felt like I was partly responsible for that and somehow – obviously that’s something that I always wanted to do – that a little bit of me was living through them vicariously.”

Life can take some unexpected turns, but for Kylie Galloway, she wouldn’t change a thing.

 

Wishing Kylie and all the other NBL Mums a very Happy Mother’s Day!

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