Western Front: Vikings' hooper follows in father's footsteps

WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM Kiana Gandy
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM
Kiana Gandy
WWUVIKINGSDOTCOM

Dec. 3, 2013

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -

For more Western Front stories visit westernfrontonline.net - Twice-weekly student newspaper of Western Washington University

By Anna Jentoft, The Western Front

Redshirt freshman forward Kiana Gandy of Western Washington University's women's basketball team can't remember ever not playing basketball.

Her father, Joe Gandy, coached and supported her to help her become the player she is today. Now, she and her father both share a passion for the game and have a mutual love of Western basketball, but the competitiveness between the two is evident.

Joe Gandy played for Western's men's basketball team from 1982 to 1984, and Kiana is just beginning her basketball career with the Vikings.

Kiana Gandy began playing basketball when she was six years old. Her mother and father have always been her two biggest supporters. They both inspire her to become a better player, she said.

"My dad used to play [at Western], so it's a motivator to be as good or better than him," Gandy said. "My mom always was yelling the loudest at my games."

Growing up south of Seattle, basketball was Gandy's main focus.

From kindergarten to second grade, Gandy's father was her basketball coach. He would play her for entire games because he felt all the other players weren't as good as she was at their young age.

Once during a game, her father was yelling at her to drive to the basket. She threw him the ball and ran off the court crying because he pushed her too hard, Gandy said.

"He has always instilled [hard work] in me," Gandy said. "No matter what sport or even if you're doing chores, just do it the best you can."

Gandy has always been competitive with her father and strived to be better than him in both basketball and other aspects of her life.

"I just want the best I can be to be better than him," she said.

Gandy also played soccer, track, flag football and baseball growing up. She was a self-proclaimed "tomboy."

"[I chose] basketball because all the [other] teams I played on were teams of guys, and basketball was the only sport I played with girls. I think it was easiest because I had people to relate to," Gandy said.

Gandy said other sports were difficult because the athletes competed individually and were always trying to beat themselves. Basketball is still competitive because players are fighting for a spot to play on the team, but she loves the team aspect basketball provides, she said.

"I love how it's a team sport," Gandy said. "No matter what you do, it doesn't just reflect on you, it reflects on everyone."

Although her father never pushed her to attend Western, she knew he would love it if she went to the same school so he could drive up to games and cheer her on, Gandy said.

Gandy had another reason why she decided to go to Western.

"I think my visit set [Western] apart," Gandy said. "The team seemed so connected and so tight, like a real family."

Gandy has had a strong start this season. She scored 62 points in the team's first six games and grabbed 25 total rebounds. She was a redshirt last year, meaning she had to sit a year out to save a year of eligibility, and has set her goals high this season.

"I want to be one of the hardest working people on the court all the time," Gandy said.

Coming off a year on the bench, Gandy strived to step up this season.

"I just wanted to go into the games and play, and not [be] scared," Gandy said. "I didn't want to play like a freshman, I just wanted to go out and play basketball like I always have. I wanted to go all out and be a surprise to people."

Gandy has brought energy and spunk to the team this year, said assistant coach Stacey Turrell. Gandy has been bringing a lot of energy off the bench, she said.

"She has really come out owning it," Turrell said. "[She has] been feisty and really just stepped into her role. It has been fun to watch her. I almost wasn't expecting how she was going to come out, but she has really been proving herself and working really hard."

Gandy's teammate, junior forward Sydney Donaldson, admires how much Gandy has progressed this season.

"As a freshman this year, she's bringing so much more [to the team]," Donaldson said. "She is super aggressive, she attacks the basket really well and is just really confident. To have young players step up early in the season is really great for the team."

Gandy brings a lot of energy to the team and has done a great job of stepping up and taking on the roles of the seniors who recently graduated, Donaldson said.

"Kiana [Gandy] is definitely a big spark of energy whether she's starting or coming off the bench," Donaldson said. "She changes the game in a positive way."

By the end of the season, Gandy hopes she'll be able to look back and know that she wasn't complacent in her game play, she said. She hopes to be a better player and gain experience by the end of the year.

Gandy plans to major in sociology or psychology and hopes to one day become a relationship therapist.