Four months ago, Kailei Edwards went to watch her brother play basketball in Arizona, and it opened a door for her to play at the college level.

Edwards, a Moriarty High School 2020 graduate, will soon be bound for Park University in Gilbert, Ariz. where she will continue her basketball career. She described her serendipitous recruitment process as “kinda funny.”

In March, Kailei was at one of her brother Caleb’s final basketball games at Glendale Community College.

A coach for the Park University men’s basketball team was at the GCC game scouting players, including Caleb, so Kailei seized the opportunity to inquire about Park’s women’s team. “We were like, ‘Oh, maybe their girls team would be interested in me,’” she said.

After that chance meeting, the Park men’s coach helped put Edwards in touch with the Park women’s coach.

“We sent him a highlights video off maxpreps and he was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, yeah!’” Kailei said about the response from Park’s women’s coach, adding, “For him to want me after seeing the very limited stuff on maxpreps is so cool.”

In her senior season with Moriarty, Edwards hit 61 3-point shots and tallied 323 points; she was an All-District first-team selection and an All-Metro second-team selection.

Edwards said Park University offered her an academic and an athletic scholarship which she accepted in May.

According to its website, Park University—whose flagship campus is in Parkville, Mo.—opened its Gilbert campus in late 2018.

“This is only their second year open, so pretty much everything’s new and it’s really nice,” Edwards said.

The Gilbert Buccaneers play in the California Pacific Conference, or CalPac. Park is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or NAIA—an athletics association for small colleges and universities and is generally compared to NCAA Division II-level playing, according to naia.org.

Edwards, a 5-foot-3 point guard and prolific 3-point shooter, said she has been playing basketball for a long time, “Like, since second grade.”

She played volleyball and ran track early in her high school career, but basketball has been her main priority. “Even when I was playing volleyball I was always working on basketball,” she said.

Edwards started on Moriarty’s JV squad her freshman year before moving up to varsity where she played the last three years.

As a sophomore during her first full varsity season, the Lady Pintos finished 27-5 and were ranked No. 3 in Class 4A and made it to the state championship.

Last season the Lady Pintos finished with a 10-15 overall record and didn’t make state, but Kailei’s efforts earned her Moriarty’s Scholar-Athlete Award for outstanding accomplishments in athletics, academics, and leadership.

One notable game during Kailei’s final season was a 51-45 win on Feb. 7 at home over Los Alamos, when she and her sister Payton—a sophomore on the team—got into a spirited 3-point scoring fest. Payton hit four 3-pointers and scored 19 points. But Kailei topped her with five 3-pointers and a game-high 20 points.

“That game was really fun,” Kailei said.

Edwards knows that playing college ball will be a big challenge. “It’s definitely going to be a lot harder,” she said. “I know our workout schedule, every day, we get up and lift weights at 7 so I’m excited for that.”

Edwards is planning on arriving in Gilbert Aug. 15, though she hasn’t been informed if the fall schedule will be impacted by Covid-19.

“We have no idea right now if it’s still normal,” she said. “I highly doubt that we’ll have a season and I’m really nervous, but I’m also like, that’s more time that I get to work out with them, more time that I get to prepare.”

For now, Edwards is working out at home, practicing her shooting every day, and looking forward to moving on from being a Lady Pinto to a Lady Buccaneer.

“Definitely,” Edwards said. “Being part of a team of brand-new girls and being at the college level, I am excited because it’s going to be so hard, it’s gonna be very different, a new coach, new everything, it’s gonna be fun.”

Ger Demarest
Ger Demarest

Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.