By Carleen Surrena
Cayla Nava fell in love at 10 years old. The hard-to-get nature of her new adoration made her fall hard.
It happened at the local sports park in San Ramon. She was with her father, Bob, and brother Nicholas. That’s when she first met basketball.
“Cayla and Nicholas shot around for 45 minutes,” said her dad, a recently retired commercial real estate appraiser. “Cayla was unable to make a basket the entire time. She cried on the way home but was determined to get better. Needless to say she did.”
Now, it seems, all Nava does is make shots.
The Las Positas College guard averaged a team-best 17.6 points over the first nine games, helping the Hawks start the season 7-2. It’s the program’s best start since Stephen Curry was knee-high to a grasshopper.
On Dec. 4, Nava made a career-high ten 3-pointers against A. Pierce. She finished with 33 points earning All-Tournament honors for the Phillips 66 Invitational at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo.
“I want to have the most three-pointers in the state,” said Nava, who averaged 5.2 points per game last season for the Hawks.
As of Dec. 9, no women’s player in the state had made more than Nava’s 37 total 3-pointers. And to think, Nava quit basketball her senior year of high school.
To be accurate, she quit the Dougherty Valley High School girl’s varsity team. Nava thought she was spending too much time on the bench.
“He thought I quit the sport of basketball,” Nava said of her coach.
She’s invested too much to quit.
By age 12, Nava was fully dedicated to basketball. She played for the city of San Ramon, where she developed her knack for shooting 3-pointers. It’s what she always practiced.
While playing basketball at Windemere Ranch Middle School in San Ramon, Nava competed in local and regional shooting competitions. She qualified for the 2009 National Junior Olympics basketball shooting competition in Chula Vista, earning a silver medal in the 12 to 13-year-old girls division. It was on to high school from there.
While playing junior varsity at Dougherty Valley, she earned MVP honors. She enjoyed her time on the court. Basketball was fun. But varsity proved to be more frustrating than fun.
Her playing time was continually cut in her senior year.
Nava quit (The team, not basketball).
She played out the remainder of her senior year and summer months on her brother’s AAU Baseline Basketball team.
“She played well on the team and easily gained a reputation as a shooter from the coaches and her teammates,“ said her brother and former teammate Nicholas. ”She always brought a positive attitude to basketball and enjoyed the experience as much as I did.”
Nava said her AAU experience gave her the confidence she needed to play college basketball. With dreams of playing at a four-year school, she believed by attending junior college first she would gain more skill and experience. Las Positas made the most sense. It was local and she grew fond of the place after visiting the campus, watching some games, and meeting women’s coach Clarence Morgan.
Now, her goal is not just to lead the state in 3-pointers. Nava pointed to the ceiling in the LPC gym, directing the focus to the main goal: making the playoffs. She was pointing out that in the basketball gym, the only banners are for swimming and diving.
The playoffs are looking possible. Sophomore guards Jasmine Odell and Kristjan Aubry, with Nava, give the Hawks three experienced guards who can score. They accounted for 58 percent of the team’s points the first nine games.
If they make it to playoffs, it will likely be because Nava led them. It will be because she doesn’t quit in pursuit of her goals.
“My dad always told me that the only thing holding me back was me,” Nava said.