James T. Alton Middle School eighth-grader Kayla Harper is equal parts athlete and artist.
The 13-year-old has played basketball since fourth grade but said she’s only recently really gotten into the game.
Her dad was active in sports and got her interested in basketball, she said. She did cheerleading at first but then started playing basketball with her friends, first at Fort Knox and then JTA. She also plays on the freshmen and junior varsity teams at North Hardin High School.
She plays center.
“There’s a lot of competition and I liked the adrenaline when I’m playing on the court,” Harper said. “But I also like being faced with a challenge and overcoming it with my team.”
This year, Harper earned a spot on the Heartland Middle School Athletic Conference All-Tournament team playing with the middle school.
“Kayla is a super hard-working young lady and is a leader on and off the court,” JTA coach Darryl Murray said. “Kayla is a very talented young ballplayer and she has an extremely bright future ahead of her.”
North Hardin assistant coach Teri Dandy said Harper has improved over her eight-grade year.
“She has improved her moves inside and has also become much stronger,” Dandy said. “Kayla has really gained confidence in her ability on the court over the last month and she will make a heck of a basketball player if she continues to work hard.”
Harper’s other passion is music. She’s played piano since the third grade and started playing the flute in middle school. When she gets older she wants to learn how to play the saxophone, she said. She plays the flute in the JTA symphonic band, which students have to audition to be a part of.
She earned a distinguished rating at the Kentucky Music Educators Association concert last year playing the flute.
“Kayla is an excellent musician and works very hard to improve her flute playing,” Band Director Byron Witham said, calling Harper an asset to the program. “She is so much fun to have in class and has an excellent sense of humor.”
Harper would like to join marching band but, because she’ll be moving after this year, she won’t get to march at North Hardin.
This will be her family’s fifth move. Her dad retired from the military last year and they are moving back to Georgia.
She’s lived in Hardin County for four years, before that she lived in Georgia, Washington and Hawaii, her birthplace.
“You have to make new friends and you have to get comfortable, but once you get comfortable, you have to move again,” she said of life as a military child.
This next move will help her be closer to family, which she hasn’t been able to do for a while. But, she’ll have to leave her basketball team and friends she’s made through band.
Technology makes the distance a little better during moves. When her father was deployed, she was able to FaceTime with him while she practiced in the gym to work on her basketball skills.
When she’s not on the court or in the band room, Harper enjoys volunteering.
She’s volunteered at her church and through a girl’s program called Delta, where she gave out food and clothing to the homeless.
Harper said she has all she wants, and desires to give to others.
“I’m always ready to give my hand out,” she said.
She also is a part of Girl Power at JTA.
“Kayla was a good role model,” Girl Power sponsor Theresa Ovesen said. “She led by example and showed peers how to treat one another.”
Ovesen said Harper donated more than 30 hours of her time outside of school to volunteer work.