From Canberra to Gillette: Kobe King-Hawea is rising

It's not unusual for someone to be named after a famous basketball player, the way Kobe King-Hawea is, after Los Angeles Laker legend Kobe Bryant. But to have other siblings who are all similarly named after NBA players (Jaylen-Rose, LeBron, Kawhi)? That's a little rare.

"Playing was all I knew from a very young age," King-Hawea told The Bleacher Report's David Gardner in February last year. "It was a way to be with my family and also to get away from everything. I put basketball above everything, above even friendships. Outside of family, basketball is the first thing in my life."

The significance of family has never been lost, and she sports a tattoo on her arm that says it all: "Family over everything".

The 19 year old King-Hawea grew up watching her namesake, and played in various youth leagues across New Zealand and Australia, before receiving a scholarship to attend the NBA Global Academy, which is housed at Canberra's Centre of Excellence (CoE).

“It was tough," she said of the NBA Global Academy experience, in an interview with the Gillette News Record's Jack Warrick.. "We woke up at 6 in the morning, did weights, conditioning and then had class from 9 (a.m.) to 3-3:40 (p.m.). And come straight back from class to basketball training for two hours, and do recovery, study session, eat dinner, it just keeps going.”

The 5'10 guard had been a development player with the Canberra Capitals of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) prior to her college commitment. She received major attention from basketball circles following Bleacher Report's feature last year, and a vocal performance at the Basketball Without Borders camp, where she exhibited her shooting touch and dribbling handle perfectly. It resulted in Gillette College women’s basketball team signing her on, following her graduation from the CoE in July.

“I watched about 30 seconds worth of film on (Kobe), and knew right away that she was a very high-level player,” newly-appointed Gillette head coach, Liz Lewis shared. “The player who had signed this year from New Zealand sent me a message that said she wasn’t coming, and then literally a day later, I heard about Kobe being available. It was meant to be. It just fell into place.”

“One of her biggest roles on the team is to be a leader and to bring her experience to help us play at a higher level,” Lewis shared. “She’s done a great job not only improving herself, but also her teammates.

“She’s a very unselfish player, almost to the point where sometimes we have to tell her to shoot because she shares the ball so well. One of her goals is to have ten assists every game.”

The numbers certainly have not reflected her reticence on shooting - King-Hawea is leading the Pronghorns, averaging 22.8 points, 6.7 assists and 8.3 rebounds a game.

For Kobe King-Hawea, who excels in isolation, especially in the mid-range, the three-point shot is the next tool she's aiming to master. And if she's aiming to be anything like her namesake, that will be just another step on the path to basketball greatness.