Scratching the Surface: Greatness in the Form of a Rookie

Following her high school graduation, Kiyara Letlow was offered a basketball scholarship to leave her home city of Toronto and play for the CBU Capers. She set out to improve both her academic and athletic career but ended up with so much more as she went on to have the most remarkable rookie season in CBU history. 

The rookie standout was fascinated at the opportunity of playing with the Capers and taking the program to new heights. “Coach Fabian’s transparency about my development and where he wanted to take the program is what hooked me,” says Kiyara. “His openness about where I presently was as a player and the improvement I needed to achieve was motivating.” Their initial conversations left Kiyara feeling like the Capers program had a lot to offer, and after a visit to campus, she knew CBU was the best fit for her. 

Entering the first year of her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Kiyara wanted a distraction-free environment where she could focus on her studies and basketball. She says the smaller size of CBU allows the athletics program to have unrivaled levels of support from faculty and the community, adding that the close-knit nature is what distinguishes the Capers from other teams. 

Kiyara approached meeting her team with a positive outlook and mindset on growth. Excelling in the classroom and being no stranger to the stressors associated with being a varsity student-athlete, she welcomed her challenges as learning experiences, noting trial and error as the best method to map her study practices. The heightened pressure of balancing student-athlete life after the COVID-19 pandemic has been far from easy for the Rookie All-Canadian, but thanks to her team she’s been able to balance everything while continuing to thrive. 

After having the previous season canceled due to the pandemic, the uncertainty of this season’s delay was stressful and confusing for Kiyara, but she says it was reassuring to know she wasn’t the only athlete experiencing those frustrations. “Being a student-athlete, each factor presented its own set of obstacles, but having my teammates to guide me has undoubtedly made the process easier,” she says. “I also had to learn to manage the intensity of our practices, the ins and outs of our system and how to develop into an athlete who can contribute to the team.” 

In Kiyara’s eventful season, she has formed strong bonds with each of her teammates and coaches, noting that the time and effort put into her development has allowed her to grow into the stellar player she is now. “I love the fun, trusting environment we established and I appreciate those who bring cheerful energy,” she says. “As a young team, we built our foundation on trust and throughout the season we were able to trust one another and grow from teammates to close friends.”

Although many previous coaches and teammates all played part in Kiyara’s success, she says her mother is the one who keeps her most grounded and focused. Kiyara found her mother’s support pivotal to her success, often being reminded to take self-care breaks and refocus on what she can control. 

Kiyara is only scratching the surface of what we know will be a long and highly decorated career considering the hardware she took home this season. Kiyara was named both AUS and U Sports Rookie of the Year, AUS 1st Team All-Star, U Sports 2nd Team All-Canadian, CBU Women’s Basketball MVP and CBU Female Athlete of the Year, just to name a few. 

The athlete humbly reflects on the performance her team put on at the AUS Championships this year, calling it the highlight of her year. “The joy and sense of success that grew as we gradually began winning games and coming together as a team is a huge highlight thus far,” she says. 

Kiyara is the only player in CBU history to enter the AUS league as a rookie and rack up hardware comparable to a fifth-year senior. Her stellar season has only inspired Kiyara for the future as she looks to train and get better every day, coming back with new skills to help the Capers compete for conference and national titles at CBU next March.