Women's Basketball

UTSA Women's Basketball's White powering Roadrunners' ascent

by Sean Cartell

SAN ANTONIO – No rain. No flowers. 

Those four words comprise the tattoo on Kyra White’s right hand. It’s the mantra that has helped the senior point guard power the UTSA women’s basketball team to 16 victories for the first time since the 2014-15 season and grow the program to prominence. 

“It’s just something that constantly reminds me that you’ve got to take the good with the bad and the bad with the good,” White said. “I’ve had to go through a few storms and fight some battles, but my story wouldn’t have been how it is now if I didn’t have those trials and tribulations.” 

* * *

To say White comes from an athletic background is putting it mildly. Her grandfather, Rudy White, played collegiately at Arizona State and was selected in both the NBA and ABA Drafts of 1975. He went on to play for the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Seattle SuperSonics from 1975-81. Her mother, Jennifer, was a softball player at Texas Tech and her father, Christopher, played football at Texas A&M Commerce and later in the Arena Football League. 

It’s no surprise that everything when White was growing up turned into a competition. 

“It was very competitive, just from the little simple task of doing your chores on Sunday,” she said. “Who was going to finish first to be able to go outside? My older brother went through high school first so whatever he did, I tried to do a little better. My little brother came along and, everything we did, he tried to do more of. It just brought good competition, but it also brought us closer together. We all know the struggles that we’ve been through, so just having people come before me to kind of show me the way was good.” 

White began playing Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball in the first grade. It didn’t take her long to love the sport and by third grade she was both ready to play competitively and she also knew that it would be her lifelong passion. 

Though White’s competitiveness permeates everything that she does both on the court and in life, it is her poise in harnessing that competitive spirit that separates her. She still reflects back on an experience playing basketball in third grade in helping shape the way she plays the game. 

“In CYO ball, I just remember dribbling away from our bench in the first half, I’m going to shoot a layup and a girl literally jumps on my back and tackles me to the ground,” White said. “I just get up and have my fists balled up. I just remember my mom screaming, ‘Kyra, don’t do it.’ I just had to take a breath and I’m just like ‘That’s not basketball.’” 

* * *

White excelled at Judson High School in nearby Converse, Texas. She was a three-time first-team All-State selection and led her team to the 2019 University Interscholastic League 6A State Championship. White scored more than 1,600 points, brought down more than 580 rebounds and dished out upwards of 300 assists. She led her high school team to a 130-22 (.855) record. 

When it was time to look towards her collegiate career, White had opportunities to play at the very highest level. She initially decided she wanted to move far from home. 

She chose the University of Southern California where she played with fellow Roadrunners’ teammate Jordyn Jenkins. White saw not only her university, but the city of Los Angeles as a growth opportunity. 

“I wanted to be in an environment like LA where everything was on my own, fast-paced and I had to kind of figure it out as I went along,” White said. “It’s just a whole different culture. I wanted to go out there and explore and use the tools I was brought up with to see if I could survive without my parents, without somebody telling me daily what I was it is I was going to do. I just wanted to have that experience for myself.” 

White played three seasons and 77 games at USC, starting 22. She averaged just 1.8 points per game and, after the 2021-22 campaign began looking for an opportunity to return home. She found her experience playing for the Trojans to be invaluable. 

“I learned that I am capable of taking care of myself, but I think I thrive more in environments where I have support and I have people who see me as a person,” White said. “I learned a lot of things about myself and my basketball game being out there. It was just a blessing to have that opportunity.” 

* * *

Coach Karen Aston was just concluding her first season at the helm of the UTSA program when White started looking for her next spot. The chance to play for her hometown team became a realistic opportunity and the perfect fit. 

“The coaches poured a lot into me during that transferring process,” she said. “They helped me open my eyes to what I am without basketball and everything that I bring to the table. They emphasized that and, everything that I was struggling with, they helped me behind closed doors. I think them just making me feel like home is home again made me want to come back to play for them.”

It has been a perfect match for both White and the Roadrunners. 

“Coach Karen has put me in a position where she has allowed me the ultimate amount of freedom and that comes from her being able to trust me,” White said. 

White, for whom the shooting guard position comes natural, has played point guard for UTSA. By any measure, she has excelled. 

As a junior in 2022-23, White started 28 games, leading the Roadrunners in assists with 142 and 4.5 assists per game, the second-most in Conference USA. She was third on her squad in steals (24), blocks (27) and rebounds (160) in addition to scoring a then-career-high 22 points on a pair of occasions. 

As a senior this year, White has been the engine behind UTSA’s resurgence. She ranks second in the American Athletic Conference in assists per game with 4.62 (all games combined). White is also top-10 in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.51) and blocked shots per game (1.00). She also is one of only three AAC players to see more than 1,000 minutes of action already this year. 

“It’s been a lot of studying the game of basketball,” White said. “It’s been hard at times but I think it’s a blessing in disguise for me. I feel like I can go out and play whatever position Coach asks me to play 1 through 5. Not saying that I’m going to be the biggest, tallest, fastest, strongest, but I can go out there and do my job. I think that’s why Coach feels she can trust me, because she knows I am able to go out there and do what needs to be done.”

White, who exemplifies the same drive and competitive spirit as her coaches – Aston and position coach Jamie Carey, has been the clear-cut leader of the Roadrunners. While leadership is something that has always come natural to White, the experience as the team’s point guard has been one of growth. 

“I think I’ve had to learn a lot of patience, not only with my teammates but with myself,” White said. “Even though I’m leading, I feel like I know that I’m not perfect and I’m not always going to be taking my own advice. So just teaching myself patience, teaching myself grace. Perspective is a big thing when you’re in a leadership role because what you may be able to bring somebody else might not and vice versa. It’s a give and take game.” 

One might think with White’s family background that her parents are driving her to seek even greater success. But, with the perspective they have as former college athletes, they’ve been encouraging her in a different way. 

“What I get from them a lot is just to enjoy where I’m at and appreciate who is around me,” White said. “They want me to make sure I look back at my journey and just smile. They’re just reminding me not to judge myself off of wins and losses but the journey.”  

The support of UTSA’s fan base has been a difference-maker for White. She has seen interest in the program grow as she has helped take the Roadrunners to the next level. 

“These past two years playing in the Convo have been incredible,” she said. “We have donors and fans that come and support us no matter whether it’s home, away or the conference tourney. No matter what, they’re coming to support us. Just being able to see how that is building year by year has been really incredible. I love that.” 

* * *

For as long as she can remember, White has aspired to be a basketball coach. She was inspired by the late Pat Summitt, Tennessee’s legendary coach who won more than 1,000 games and eight national championships, before succumbing to early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, in 2016. As a kid, White had dreams of playing for Summitt and the Lady Vols.   

“Besides continuing to play basketball, coaching is the No. 1 goal,” White said. “I think helping people, growing the game, teaching younger kids about the game of basketball and the right way to play has always been a dream of mine.” 

Since she has been at UTSA, her desire to be a coach has only increased. 

“It has been strengthened,” White said. “I do sit back and think the coaches put in a lot of work. But I’ve been doing this my whole life too. In the future, I want to be where Coach Karen is at. I want to be in a position where it’s truly leading a team. Her being able to put trust in me and build me up to be the one that the girls depend on out there, it’s been really cool.” 

White’s coaches have encouraged her to follow her passion and have fueled her desire to one day be directing the game from the sidelines rather than the court. 

“They think I’m made for it,” White said. “They keep pushing me to just keep playing basketball as much as I want to as long as I want to. They are coaching me up for my future. They know that, at the moment, Kyra knows what to do. But they sometimes put scenarios in my head – what would you do in this moment? So it’s just kind of like quizzing me while they’re teaching me the game of basketball. It’s been very helpful.” 

What she’s learned most from Aston is a simple concept, but one that’s often very hard for teams to achieve. 

“The world goes round with everybody simply doing their job,” White recounted. “Everything can be 10 times easier if you just mind your business, do what you need to do and cheer on others.” 

* * *

As White and her teammates enter The American Tournament this week in Fort Worth, they expect that it will be the start of a long post-season journey, one they hope culminates in a trophy. 

Whenever the 2023-24 season ends, White plans to pursue professional basketball before entering the coaching profession. 

“After the season ends, I plan to take some time off – which is much needed – and find myself an agent,” White said. “I want to find myself a spot to go play professionally, sign my first pro contract by the end of 2024 and just get going with my professional basketball career. That’s what I want to take off. After that, coaching is going to come whenever it comes.” 

With her time as a Roadrunner coming to a close, White will no doubt be remembered as one of the catalysts that changed the trajectory of UTSA Basketball. But her legacy will endure far beyond the results in the record book. 

“I hope to be remembered as someone who was not only fun to watch, was cool to get to know, but somebody who just loved the game of basketball through and through,” White said. “Whether I’m scoring 30 points a night or zero points a night, have 10 assists or zero assists, 10 rebounds or zero rebounds, I just want them to know that basketball is truly my life. I love every single aspect of it. I love the grind. I love the hard times and I love the good times. I love the wins, but I learned the most about myself from the losses. I really just hope to leave UTSA better than I found it.”