Humble girls-hoops star becomes Mastery Charter’s first-ever D1 full-scholarship recipient

 Kayla Thomas stands on the Mastery basketball court with her mother Keturah Thomas and coach Antowine Graham. (Desirae Holland/for NewsWorks)

Kayla Thomas stands on the Mastery basketball court with her mother Keturah Thomas and coach Antowine Graham. (Desirae Holland/for NewsWorks)

Kayla Thomas, a 6-foot 5-inch tall senior at Mastery Charter High’s Pickett campus, recently made history when she became the school’s first-ever student-athlete to receive a full scholarship from a Division I program.

A senior center for the Mastery girls-basketball team, Thomas has signed with Central Florida University, a move for which the school held a Nov. 14 signing-event rally to highlight her accomplishments at the Northwest Philadelphia school.

Worthy of the attention

Speaking with NewsWorks after the event, Thomas confessed that she doesn’t like being the center of attention (no pun intended), and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.

Mastery Athletic Director Mike Poploski said the signing event inspired and boosted morale among the student body.

A success story coming from a seven-year-old girls-basketball program will serve as proof that hard work enables a capacity to accomplish great things, he said.

“She deserves the opportunity she has now because of her constant hard work, dedication, attendance and humbleness,” he said. “Not only is her athletic ability outstanding, but her 3.7 GPA also shows that she is an exceptional student.”

Court history

Thomas, an only child from the city’s Olney neighborhood, launched her promising basketball career as a 13-year-old who really wanted to be a model. Her mother Keturah saw Thomas’ height as a plus for basketball and gently steered her away from runway and onto the court.

Despite a torn knee ligament that forced Thomas to miss much of her junior-year season, some colleges still recruited her. That didn’t make matters entirely easier, though.

“Being injured and sitting out most of my junior year was very hard,” said Thomas. “It was hard seeing my team play and not being able to play.

“There were times when I wanted to play ball before I was cleared to play and, once I was cleared to play, I didn’t want to play in fear of having another injury.”

Thomas, who plans to study sports and medicine in college, said she chose the Orlando, Fla. school, because of its coaching team and the medical center.

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