By Naeisha Rose
Keyla Cabrera, a junior at Bayside High School, never imagined that she would be one of the players on the basketball court instead of sitting in the bleachers when she was growing up.
Today, you can spot her in jersey No. 14. She is her school’s center and sometimes power forward on the women’s Division A team.
Cabrera’s fondness for the sport started when she was 10 years old from watching sports on television and at local parks.
“When I first saw it, it was the sportsmanship of the players, the relationship that you could have. It just amazed me and I fell in love with the sport of basketball,” said Cabrera, who is 16. “It brought me together with other people and friends and family.”
Although she has an attachment to the sport, her mother Rachel Osorio was far more concerned about the intensity of basketball and how it would affect her daughter’s health.
“At first she didn’t want me to (play) because I have asthma,” Cabrera said. “She was worried I would have an asthma attack during the game.”
Despite the health risks, Cabrera only became more determined to pursue basketball and started doing research on how to overcome her illness and do what she’s passionate about.
After researching on her own and watching YouTube videos on cardio exercises, she started training to build up resistance and using breathing techniques to up her air intake while at the George J. Ryan Middle School.
According to a study from the Cochrane Collaboration (an international network of researchers), sports and exercise can reduce the symptoms of asthma except for winter sports. Still, patients had to maintain their asthma medication protocol and be mentally prepared for the level of stress they were going to put their bodies through with certain physical activities for it to work. Different sports and types of movement had varying degrees of success.
By seventh grade she joined her junior high school basketball team at age 13. But things started slowly for Cabrera.
“At first I did not play a lot,” she said. “My coach knew, so I played only a few minutes, but then I started to breathe better and control myself. I was able to get more playing time.”
In middle school, Cabrera played for six minutes, would break and then go back in at a later time. Now, at Bayside High School she is able to play for a full quarter of the game, and after a rest period she plays for another full quarter.
Cabrera, who is a Pentecostal Christian, also finds inspiration in NBA player Steph Curry.
“I like that he is a Christian player,” she said, “and I like that he is always looking for his teammates and passes to them. He’s not always concentrating on himself.”
Even though Bayside High School did not win the playoffs for its division, effectively ending the team’s season, Cabrera has turned to her faith to keep moving forward and plans to work on improving her three-point shot this offseason.
“I always keep my head up,” she said. “If things don’t go my way, I can’t let that affect us, because it doesn’t benefit my team in any way, so I forget that and keep moving on.”
After she finishes her last year of high school, Cabrera intends on playing college basketball, joining the WNBA and representing her country in the Olympics. But for now she is just happy that her mom allowed her to pursue basketball.
“When she can, she comes to my games and she is excited and happy,” Cabrera said. “I want to thank her for her motivation and hard work, because even though she has five kids she’s always working hard for the best of her family.”
Cabrera also wanted to recognize her coaches and trainers, Magdalina Kassimis, Joe Capuana, Francis Evangelista and Joe Corrado, for taking the time to help her develop into the player that she is today and encouraging her to follow her dreams.