First published in the Feb. 11 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
For certain individuals, basketball isn’t just a sport but a way of life. It is often a sport passed down from generation to generation, as it is for one particular family at Crescenta Valley High School.
Junior point guard Kylie Ray has helped lead the Falcons to their second consecutive Pacific League title as they entered this past week’s CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs with an impressive 23-5 overall record (13-1 in league).
Ray has been playing basketball for as long as she can remember, and some of her fondest memories are with her grandfather, who also happens to be an NCAA champion head coach — Jim Harrick.
“I remember training with him and my cousin, working on fundamentals and just learning the game. He taught me all about it at his house in the backyard; we still play on it,” Ray said.
Harrick owns an outstanding basketball resume with a 470-235 career record over 23 seasons, which included stints at Pepperdine University, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Georgia and, of course, UCLA … the school where he won the 1995 NCAA championship.
These days, Harrick isn’t coaching on the sidelines. Instead, he is simply another fan supporting his granddaughter and her team from the bleachers.
“She handles the ball real well, sees the floor real well, passes it real well, she can score, she makes everybody a little bit better on her team and she’s doing a great job,” Harrick said of his granddaughter. “I am always interested in fundamentals and how fundamentally sound she is and she’s getting better and better and better every time I see her.”
Off the court, it’s a different story. Ray and Harrick may be family by blood but the latter is a coach at heart, so the duo have trained together for years.
“[She] and I worked out a lot together since she was in 3rd-grade,” the 84-year-old Harrick said. “Before she got to high school, we worked out a tremendous amount but she’s practicing now so I’ve turned her over to the head coach [Michael Flot].”
Ray’s father, Matt Ray, recalled one of his earliest memories of his daughter on a basketball court. He played pickup games in the mornings and the younger Ray tagged along to shoot on the sidelines. That was her practice before she joined the YMCA around age 5.
“It was kind of amazing because she was one of the only girls and she was better than all the boys,” Matt Ray said. “I know I’m her dad but she could hang with all the boys from a super-young age.”
The turning point for Ray’s basketball career came when she had to make a choice in middle school between soccer and basketball. Her father said she played both sports growing up but decided to pursue basketball because that sport was linked to some of her best life experiences.
“She had to make a decision of which one she wanted to pursue more,” Matt Ray said. “She loved playing in the backyard with [me], her siblings and then obviously with Jim. Basketball became a very big part of her life.”
Harrick is a season-ticket holder for the Los Angeles Clippers and has taken his granddaughter to several games over the years, including her first game as seventh birthday surprise.
“He surprised me for my birthday and just going there, walking in the arena and watching the game so up close was a very fun experience,“ Kylie said.
Crescenta Valley eighth-year head coach Michael Flot said he has enjoyed his standout junior develop over her three-year varsity career. He described Kylie as a dedicated lifetime learner and a fantastic teammate.
“Kylie had a triple-double against Arcadia [in CV’s regular-season finale] and her big games were against Harvard-Westlake with 23 points, South Pasadena with 22 points, Mark Keppel with 16 points, Pioneer with 15 points — she came to play when we had big games,” Flot said of his standout point guard. “I wanted all the girls to play so Kylie could have probably averaged more points but didn’t play second halves against some teams.”
Ray’s freshman season was interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she still found positive learning experiences during a season filled with unknown variables.
“I didn’t get a full season but it was definitely a good learning experience,” Ray said. “We had 10 games and with cancelations; you never knew until the day of if you had a game. But I saw what I needed to work on and what I needed to get better at just to play at the varsity level.”
Ray still has a year to develop at the high school varsity level but she has already piqued the interest of NCAA Division I college programs. If she continues her current trajectory, Ray almost certainly will continue her academic and athletic career beyond high school.
“[My grandfather] is very helpful. He’s taught me a lot and has given me really good advice that has helped me throughout my whole career,” Ray said. “He and my grandmother never miss a game and after he’s always ready with advice on things I need to work on but also what I did pretty good.”