Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – What Kayla Ivicak has brought to the MacEwan Griffins women's basketball program can't be quantified by statistics.
That said, the stats are pretty darn impressive: a program-leading 19 career Canada West double doubles, 656 rebounds, 161 steals, 181 assists in 2,517 minutes.
There's no way to analytically measure heart, grit, hustle and elbow grease – the qualities that have made the St. Albert product one of the toughest opponents to face in the conference.
On Saturday, she will play the final home regular season game of her career. Following MacEwan's series against Brandon (6 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday, David Atkinson Gym), Ivicak is among three graduating players the Griffins will fete, joining Kristen Monfort-Palomino and Anna Mbuyi in a post-game celebration.
None have been here longer than Ivicak, who first became a Griffin in 2014 and will leave a legacy and model of unmatched hard work that the program can benefit from in future seasons.
"It's unbelievable given her position what she's able to do," Griffins head coach Katherine Adams said of Ivicak, who is knocking on the door of the top-15 in career Canada West double doubles. "If you look at the Canada West record books in terms of double doubles, obviously there's some pretty impressive players who've put up some pretty big numbers. But she's a 5-8 guard.
"We've seen from Day 1 how much she brings to the table and how much we value it. She really sets the tone for the effort and intensity and what we compete with.
"She doesn't have to say much, although she does," Adams continued. "She doesn't have to say much because her teammates just feed off that and know that's the standard and what's expected of us. If Kayla's going to put forth that effort, I have to do everything in my ability to match that and help contribute."
That she consistently gets rebounds against taller players speaks to her basketball sense but also a will that can't be taught.
"A few people have asked me 'how do you get so many rebounds being 5-8?' It's nothing you're taught, it's just the mentality that I'm going in and crashing hard every time there's a shot up," she explained. "One of the girls asked me 'you need to teach me before you go.' There's nothing to teach. You just have to go and do it. There's nothing technical about it, it's wanting to go do it."
Ivicak broke Kelly Fagan's record for the most double doubles by a Griffins player in a Canada West season when she posted nine of them in 2017-18. She has a shot at breaking that this season, sitting at six with four games left.
Beyond her individual goals, though, the team has always come first for Ivicak, who has grown from a rookie playing behind some of the top players in program history – Megan Wood, Fagan and Kendall Lydon – to a veteran leader. Last season, she, Paige Knull and Kerilynn MacLennan were key in helping a group of seven first-years learn what it takes to compete at the Canada West level.
"Last year with me, Paige and Kristen, having seven rookies out of high school, that was a big transition for us trying to (help them learn)," said Ivicak. "It's a big transition and we've been doing it for (a few years). Patience has grown. It's not going to come overnight, them adapting to the game. Just learning to accept it's going to take time … it's really made me grow as a leader."
The Griffins are still a young team growing into their potential. When they finally do, Ivicak's contributions can't be discounted to the future success of the squad.
"First, I think it really speaks to her character what she brings to the team in that she's been able to grow and nurture this young group," said Adams. "She had help over the past two years with Paige and Keri last year, as well. But it's a different situation when now it's you – the only fifth year player who's been here her entire career – knowing where the program has come from and the vision and mission of what we're trying to achieve moving forward.
"She's really been a huge part of instilling those values in the younger players. I know they certainly look up to her and want to honour her in the way that they play and what she's done for this program."