Since her early childhood, Kylah Mize has felt a strong connection with the state of Texas.
Her mother Sharon always had a desire to one day live in Houston, so Mize — already feeling the urge to venture far from home after graduation — decided to take her college basketball pursuits to the small town of Ranger, Texas (120 miles west of Dallas).
A landing spot at Ranger College proved to be a wise choice for this East Hall grad, as Mize is taking the junior college world by storm as a rising sophomore.
The former standout for the Lady Vikings never skipped a beat in her transition from high school to her freshman season at Ranger. Mize has far exceeded the expectations of her coaches, so much that she will now be represent the Rangers at an All-Star level at the end of this month.
On July 26-29, Mize will take part in the NJCAA Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Games at the Decatur campus of Georgia State University.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Mize. “My first year, not gonna lie — I’m a home person — so I was homesick a lot. But basketball wise, (Ranger College) was a good opportunity for me. We had a good season, and I think I did pretty well there.”
A 5-foot-7 wing player, Mize got the news June 20 she was one of 40 players selected to play, after averaging 11 points, three rebounds and a pair of assists per game this past season.
Mize’s latest distinction came as little surprise to her high school coaches back home.
East Hall girls coach Justin Wheeler described Mize as a more matured, composed player since her departure from the Lady Vikings.
“Just to go far, far away from home … All the way in Texas to perform like that, is pretty special,” Wheeler said. “No. 1, I’m just real proud of her and I’m happy that she went out there, and she’s putting up good numbers, you know?”
Mize has benefitted from playing under Rangers coach Bill Foy, a former NJCAA National Coach of the Year and men’s national championship winning coach in 2005 at Paris (Texas) Junior College.
(Foy) is the type of coach that, if he demands something, it’s gonna happen — no if, ands or buts,” Mize said. “You have to re-adjust to everything — his workouts, morning practices, the conditioning, everything. ...It’s all beneficial because it humbles me, and it gets me prepared for the next level.”
As a result, Wheeler noticed a significant improvement in her shot-making ability, as well as a different eye for the game while the pair met for several workouts this summer in Gainesville.
Foy’s first glimpse of Mize came during her final season at East Hall, during which she averaged 16 points and 2.5 steals on her way to earning the Region 7-3A distinction and Second-team All-state honors as a senior in 2016-17.
“I just really liked the way she got to the rim,” Foy said. “She really knew how to draw fouls as well. ..I thought she was somebody that could make plays. ...You have to have some players that could make the plays when the shot clock goes down.”
Aside from her opportunism on the court, Foy, much like Wheeler at East Hall, saw Mize’s hunger for improvement. As the season progressed, Mize shot at 74 percent from the free throw line and 35 percent from the floor. The next step in the process, Foy said, will be to improve her mid-range shot.
“I just think she has a very good work ethic and a desire to be better. ... as we all know, that’s half the battle,” Foy added.
On top of that, Mize will be one of five returning starters expected to lead the charge for a third-straight trip to the regional tourney at Ranger in 2018-19. Until then, Mize looks forward to playing in front of friends and family for both games at Georgia State, and showcase her skills to some larger schools in attendance, such as Texas State, among some other Division I schools.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to see how much I’ve improved since high school, so I’m excited about it,” Mize said.
Wheeler will be in attendance for the games as well.
“(Kylah’s) giving effort. ...to go out there and perform at that level as a freshman, that’s pretty special,” Wheeler said. “I hope she goes out there (at the All-Star game) and plays well too.”