Defense gets big bump from Sylva

After the loss of Jordan Barnes, Silva’s role has become even more important.

Mark Heise

With the season-ending injury to defensive-minded senior guard Jordan Barnes, junior guard Kay Sylva has been nothing less than a godsend to the Minnesota women’s basketball team.

Sylva came straight from junior college at North Idaho and entered the Gophers program with the intent to immediately make an impact.

“Her leadership, her hustle and her maturity were all things that she brought to our team both on and off the court,” associate head coach Barb Smith said. “She immediately brought these skills, and her work ethic was a huge boost as well.”

Sylva has embraced the role of a defensive guard, taking over where Barnes left off, and frustrating guards throughout the season so far.

“That’s just my game,” Sylva said. “Defense is my biggest strength, and when you frustrate a guard to a point where they dump it to a post and don’t even want it back anymore, you know you’ve done your job.”

Sylva began to be recruited last season, as the Gophers and five other Division I schools began looking at the talented guard.

But it was on the last day of a visit to Minnesota that Sylva decided to commit to the Gophers.

Sylva said she bonded well with the coaches and liked the University, and after talking it through with her dad and making a list of pros and cons, she decided to commit.

“I had the coaches kind of guessing and trying to figure out if I was going to come,” she said. “They were probably like, ‘What’s going on, she hasn’t given us an answer, she’s been beating around the bush,’ but the next morning I surprised them with my application at breakfast.”

While Sylva immediately fit the description of what the Gophers needed, the guard still had to get used to a different style of play. One thing Sylva said she had the toughest time adjusting to was the different screens set at this level.

“The staggered screens are still surprising me,” she said. “I’ve never seen so many staggered screens until now. You get screen after screen after screen, and I’ve hit one or two, and it doesn’t feel good.”

But Sylva’s intensity has shown throughout, fighting through each screen, and that intensity might be what gave her such a close bond with her new teammates so fast.

It was that, along with a friendly personality, junior guard Emily Fox said.

“She fits in great with everybody,” she said. “Kay is a very friendly and loving person and she’s had no problem fitting in. She goes to Gophers sporting events and we spend a lot of time playing basketball. She’s a good fit.”

Sylva was quick to talk about supporting other Minnesota teams.

“I feel like as athletes we need to support each other, so I try to get around to all the sports,” she said. “At North Idaho, ask anyone I was a huge volleyball fan. I don’t think I could ever be good at volleyball, but I love cheering them on.”

Aside from that, Sylva said she has plenty of other things to do to get away from basketball.

“People think I’m a hermit, but they don’t realize that my roommate Tanisha Smith and I get out and do a lot of things,” she said. “Last night we went and saw ‘This Christmas,’ and I don’t think anyone knows we went. We’re just up on the fourth floor and no one knows that we get out a lot.”