The goal when the two were making their names at leading programs in college wasn’t necessarily his and her “bubbles” in Florida in the summer of 2020.
But that’s exactly where this COVID-19 challenge has placed both Miami Heat forward Kyle Alexander and his sister Kayla Alexander, who plays for the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA.
For the next several weeks, the two will be separated by 106 miles — and also out of reach of each other due to the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.
For Kyle, the rookie out of Tennessee who is on a two-way contract with the Heat, the quarantine base is the luxury of the NBA’s set-up at the Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs.
For Kayla, the former Syracuse star who is an eight-year veteran of the WNBA, the setting is the more spartan campus setup at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.
“I mean it’s a weird time for everybody,” Kyle Alexander said by phone before a Heat practice. “Is it weird that she’s in the bubble and I’m in the bubble? But we’re still here for each other. We’re seeing how each other’s situation is going and we’re both trying to make the most of it.”
For Kyle Alexander, it is an opportunity to make a sustained impression, after a knee injury sidelined him at midseason, following a heartening breakout with the Heat at summer league last July. For Kayla Alexander, at 29 six years older than her brother, it is about a fresh start after previous WNBA stints in Chicago, Indiana and San Antonio.
But when it comes to the NBA and WNBA hierarchy, seniority only counts for so much.
“When I first got here, I was like, ‘Man, it’s not that bad,’ ” Kyle said of his experience that has included upscale amenities and concierge service. “She got to her bubble a day earlier than I did, and they had to deal with ants and the places weren’t clean, and all that. And their food apparently wasn’t that good, either. So when I got here, I was like, ‘It’s not that bad here.’ ”
Kayla will be up first, with the Lynx opening their season on July 26 against the Connecticut Sun. Kyle’s regular-season re-opener will be at the end of that week, on Aug. 1 against the Denver Nuggets.
That will have them close in more than competitive proximity.
“My family is all really close,” Kyle said. “We all keep in touch. But me and her both understand and respect that we’re both basketball players with schedules, so we kind of just exchange texts. So after her practices, she’ll send a text. And then I’ll wake up in the morning and I’ll reply. But we both understand that we have busy schedules. But we’re really there for each other.”
Kyle paused, then continued, “She was really there for me throughout all this, because she went through the draft process, and she went through college basketball. So she’s been there for me and helped me out through this whole process.”
Initially a soccer and volleyball player, Kyle came to basketball late in their native Ontario. His high school roommate was current Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.
“Started playing basketball at 16, you don’t get through it as well as you did unless you have a dad and a sister who both played Division I basketball,” said Kyle, whose father, Joseph, played collegiately at Niagara.
“It was very helpful to have her go through that process first. My dad was able to tell her how it was going to be, her going into it. And now they were both able to tell me. So I knew going in there were going to be some days you don’t want to go, you don’t want to wake up, but you’ve got to go through it. So I was prepared for all of that going in. When you know you’re going to have days like that, they don’t surprise you, and it’s a lot easier to get through it.”
While the one-on-one result might say otherwise, Kyle said there is no arguing the better career at this point.
“Her, for sure,” he said. “But, yes, if you put us on the court, obviously I’m 6-11, I win that one-on-one game (Kayla is listed at 6-4). But in terms her league and my league, and her basketball career and my basketball career: I left Tennessee as the second-leading shot-blocker in Tennessee history, that’s probably my only (accolade), and us being SEC champions my junior year. But she still holds the record for points, rebounds, blocks (at Syracuse), drafted No. 8, so there’s no question she’s had the better career.
“I’m just trying to catch up.”
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