Kaylee Berry’s first venture into the world of athletics came as a second-grader when she played Pop Warner football, just like her three older brothers.
Despite not weighing much, Berry played outside linebacker and left tackle.
“I’m very proud to tell people I played tackle football, ” Berry said. “I know I don’t look the part of a linebacker or a left tackle.”
Still slender, Berry is now a 6-foot-1 senior center on the girls basketball team at La Costa Canyon High.
Her football days are long gone, but she’s still collecting bruises when she plays pickup basketball with her brothers.
“I’m better at basketball than they are, ” she said, laughing. “Doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten a lot of bruises from them.”
Berry began her basketball career much the same way as her short football career.
In elementary school she played basketball at recess with the boys in her class.
“I was the only girl who wanted to play, ” she recalled.
Berry also joined a coed basketball league in sixth grade.
“I never found a sport better for me than this one, ” said Berry, the youngest of four children and the only girl. “With basketball, you’re always involved. In soccer, you could stand around all day and never see the ball.
“Even if you don’t have the ball in basketball, you can set screens, get in rebound position. There are things to do when someone else has the ball.”
During her first two varsity seasons, Berry has gotten used to winning. The Mavericks were 23-10 in 2015-16, 25-6 last season and began this week 5-2.
LCC has captured league championships the last two years, running the team’s streak of consecutive league titles to 10.
At home, La Costa Canyon was 14-0 last year.
“We love to be in our gym, ” Berry said. “We have a flow, a known environment we’re used to being in. As good as we were at home last year, you’d think we would have had a bad day and lost one. Maybe it’s voodoo or something.”
Berry went from averaging 5.8 points and 5.6 rebounds as a 10th-grader to 12.1 points and 7.9 rebounds last year. She converted 50 percent of her field-goal tries, including 53 percent from 2-point range.
“Foot speed is her best asset, ” LCC coach Mario Flores said. “She did an awesome job of that sophomore year. She can shoot down low or she can go out on the perimeter and hit shots.
“Sometimes I have to tell her to take open shots. If I tell a boy to shoot, I wouldn’t have to tell him twice, but Kaylee wants to be a good team player.”
Her average has risen to 16.2 so far this season.
Berry would prefer to be an outside shooter, which is the assignment Flores believes she’s best suited for in college.
Next year, she’ll play at Hawaii Pacific University, a private school in Honolulu.
“I’m super excited about Hawaii, ” Berry said. “When I visited there, I got a different feeling than I’d gotten on other trips.
“I just felt like I belonged there. Nothing I can put my finger on.”
When she’s not playing or going to school, Berry loves to hang out with friends or hit the waves for a little surfing.
“I’ve seen baby whales, dolphins and seals – nothing with big teeth – while sitting on my board, ” Berry said. “I love being in the water. Sitting there I’m happy and at peace.
“The view is great. It’s my little escape from the real world.”
Berry will definitely take her surfboard to Oahu next fall.
“Maybe my parents will get me a new customized board for a graduation gift, ” Berry said. “I’m nervous about the next level. Hard to believe it’s finally here.
“It’s crazy how fast college has gotten here. It’s weird to think that next fall I won’t be around the things I’ve known my whole life.”