By Jerry Del Priore
Sophomore basketball player Kayla Bridgeman is a true competitor, working hard in the classroom and on the court to get into a fine college someday.
But in a defining moment in her young high school career, Bridgeman decided to transfer out after her freshman year at the iSchool at Chelsea High School in Manhattan. Bridgeman, 15, said she decided to leave to attend a learning institution that better suited her academic needs. The East New York native applied for New York City Museum School at Lab Museum United, another high school in Chelsea, and was accepted.
“The way they teach here is better for me,” the 5’6”, 135-pound wing said of NYC Museum. “It’s more traditional and hands-on, and the team was very good. So, it was a benefit to me as far as academics and basketball.”
Currently, she’s balancing both disciplines in her life—which includes typical 12-hour days during the PSAL basketball season—with favorable results. Bridgeman said she’s pulling a 91 average and has averaged 10 points in the Lady Gators’ first four games (all wins) to start the PSAL season.
As far as gelling with her new teammates during the early going, Bridgeman said, “I am fitting in well. They’re very supportive and open to new things.”
Bridgeman, who plays AAU ball with the Brooklyn Saints, is expected to see ample hardwood time and produce as a young player, and it doesn’t seem to phase the mature youngster one bit.
“I don’t feel it’s a lot of pressure because I know my teammates are there for me if I need help or if I’m confused,” she said of playing in a new system with Lab United. “So, the pressure is not a big deal for me. I don’t worry, I just play.”
For head coach Michael Lloyd, his young, dynamic player possesses several desirable attributes, both in basketball and personality, that many coaches would love to have in an athlete. Those qualities make her extremely valuable to a squad that lost, 67-64, to Tottenville in the second round of the Class A playoffs last year.
“I like that she’s humble, athletic and she can play. She can guard three or four spots on the floor,” Lloyd said. “And she doesn’t know how good she can become. She’s always active. She’s always around the ball, always around the basket. She keeps playing hard.”
Bridgeman’s positive upbringing seems to have a lot to do with her modest, even-keeled temperament and diligent work ethic. They’re all characteristics that have served her well in both her hoops and academic life, especially her studies, which is job one at the Bridgeman household.
“I’m a big school fanatic – education first,” Yvonne Bridgeman, Kayla’s mother emphasized. “Basketball is secondary, and I stress that to her. I said to her, ‘You know, if your academics fall, you got to give up basketball. If you break a leg, basketball is done.”’
Kayla says she has strong college aspirations and hopes to study something in law. She plans to use hoops and her grades as vehicles to reach the next level, hopefully on a scholarship.
“She wants to go to college. She’s focusing on trying to get a scholarship, which would be great,” adds her Mom. “If you stay focused, you can get to wherever you want to go.”
Lab Museum United returns home Monday at 5:00 p.m. to face Graphics Campus in a Manhattan A West battle.