Kianna Maldia has always had a strong belief in herself when it comes to playing basketball. That confidence has carried the Sobrato High senior to earning a scholarship to play at Sonoma State University. Maldia actually returned her signed letter of intent in person to Sonoma State coach Rich Shayewitz on Nov. 24 because she had already been scheduled to be on campus that day.
Maldia was one of four Sobrato High athletes—with Helena Batey, Sam Parish and Bella Romani being the others—who have signed their letter of intents to play at a four-year school (the Times posted articles on Batey, Parish and Romani in previous editions). For Maldia, the handing of the letter of intent document finalized a process that saw her realize a dream to play for a four-year program. Even though other programs expressed interest in Maldia, Sonoma State had built a relationship with her and shown the most interest.
“I’d rather go to a college that really wants me because I know I can trust them,” she said. “I can continue to build a relationship with them and into the future. It was perfect.”
Maldia got on Sonoma State’s radar when she competed in one of its camps near the end of her sophomore year. Maldia plays for the West Valley Basketball Club, and one of her teammates at the time was attending the camp. Little did Maldia know that her decision to attend the camp—her first college camp—would eventually lead to a scholarship down the road.
“I thought it sounded interesting so I decided to try it out,” she said. “I did a bunch of drills and I ended up loving it. All of the girls were fun to play with and it was a great experience.”
Maldia credits playing for West Valley and coach Bob Bramlett as key to the recruiting process.
“West Valley is a really strict program and are all about getting their athletes to college,” she said. “They believed in me and then helped me envision this and make it a reality for me. They told me it could happen. I had the thinking before that I would love to play (in college), but I didn’t have the right tools and people to help me to make it happen. (Bramlett) likes to make sure the college really wants his players before he wants them to contact us.”
Although a lack of height can be a limiting factor in basketball, it has actually had the opposite effect for Maldia’s game. At 5-foot-2, Maldia takes the court as one of the shortest players on the court. Since she routinely goes up against bigger players, Maldia recognized every part of her game would have to be a little finer. In conversations with Shayewitz, Maldia knows her overall awareness and decision-making must be at a high level for her to succeed.
“He (Shayewtiz) made a point to make sure my cognitive thinking has to be up there because I’m shorter and have a height disadvantage,” she said. “(Shayewitz) said he liked my style of play and liked the way I lead.”
Maldia grew up playing with two older brothers, and she’ll be the first in the family to earn a scholarship to play sports at a four-year university. On the court, Maldia has already gotten off to a nice start, as she went over the 1,000 career point mark at Sobrato in the second game of the season, a 65-31 win over Andrew Hill on Nov. 27. Maldia has high hopes for the final season of her high school career, as Sobrato has some talented players who should improve as the season goes along.
“We’re young, but we have a lot of good games coming up before league, which should help us grow as a team,” she said. “If we really want it, we’ll make it happen (contending for a league championship and making a deep Central Coast Section playoff run).”
Maldia pointed to the improvement of Angeline Madriaga, a junior guard whose confidence has skyrocketed from last season.
“She’s really confident with her shot and overall shooting,” Maldia said. “She’s not afraid to do anything, and that’s what we need from everyone to fulfill our potential.”
If her teammates need any inspiration, they can look at Maldia as proof of how far one can go on determination, grit and perseverance.