Kalaya Buggs sets career high to earn CCAA Player of the Week

By Samantha Campion, Feb. 13, 2024

Cal Poly Pomona point guard Kalaya Buggs set a career-high against Cal State LA Jan. 27, to earn her first California Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Week.

With one second left on the clock, Buggs remained composed to land two free throws, securing her team the victory, 79-76.

She takes pride in her ability to focus on the task at hand and silence the background noise. Buggs described this mindset as “zoning out.”

“I was like, ‘We have nothing to lose,’” Buggs said. “I tried to do all I could to help the team be as successful as we possibly could.”

She solidified a new team season-high with 35 points that night while scoring the second-most points in a game this entire CCAA season.

As a new member of the team last year, Buggs focused on learning the system and creating opportunities for others on the court.

Returning a year older and wiser, she currently leads the Broncos in points and assists per game, developing into her new role as an elite scorer and leader of the team.

“Knowing I have a different role on the team this year, brings another level of confidence that I know is needed for me to be the best point guard and leader for this team,” Buggs said. “I have gained the trust from the coaches. They have put that trust and confidence in me, and it has shown over this past season.”

A naturally quiet individual off the court, she finds her voice on it, and the impact of her words travels far beyond those four lines. Whether it is from the bench or in the game, when she talks, her teammates listen.

“She’s a vocal leader, but I think when you run the show as a point guard, a lot of people are just drawn to you,” senior guard Sydney Fedinec said. “She’s just taken on the role of working hard, and everyone follows her because of the persona that she puts on.”

Buggs’ ties to the sport began before she was born. Growing up as the youngest of four, she watched her parents coach her siblings and wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Buggs played basketball for her parents at her former high school, Long Beach Poly. Her dad surpassed 600 career wins at the high school level this past year, and with the assistance of her mother, the two have established a well-respected program.

Her sister, Cynthia, ended her volleyball career at Long Beach State and one of her brothers, Kevin, played basketball for the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Her other brother, Marques, played volleyball at Long Beach City Community College before he joined the National Volleyball Association to play professionally.

Ultimately, it was their success at the high school and college level that inspired her to pursue college basketball and continue the legacy they built.

Kalaya Buggs darts past Joe’l Benoit in a match against Cal State Dominguez Hills Jan. 25. | Photo by Alexander Novoa

After spending her first season at Coastal Carolina University, Buggs wanted to transfer back home, and the immediate connection with the CPP coaching staff confirmed her decision.

Furthermore, a prior relationship between her dad and head coach Danelle Bishop paved the way for a seamless transition.

“I called her dad to see if she was available,” Bishop said. “She came on a visit the next day, and the rest is history. She came in and has been an excellent leader for us.”

Culture was another important aspect of the team for her, and she described their team culture as a family. They love to spend time together outside of the gym.

Amidst a challenging start to the season, Buggs appreciates the award but attributes her success to her teammates and playing for a purpose bigger than herself.

“Honestly for me, I am not someone who is big on awards,” Buggs said. “I don’t really care to be recognized. I just want to know that I did my job. Whether I get the recognition or not, doesn’t matter to me. It’s not just about me; it’s about the team.”

However, those close to her believe she is underrecognized within the conference and contributes more to the team than what criteria is considered for the award.

“It’s an honor to have her be player of the week, but I think she could have probably already gotten it this year,” Bishop said. “She does so much more than just score points. She’s defending, she’s rebounding, and getting steals.”

Looking forward to the end of the conference season, the team is looking to finish among the top two in the conference.

Buggs aspires for All-Conference awards but remains focused on team success and winning the conference tournament.

She has her eyes set on an NCAA tournament appearance after missing last year’s due to injury.

“Getting back there this year has been a huge goal individually for me,” she said. “Experiencing it on the court and off the court are two totally different things. I want to be there for my team this year and experience it on a different level.”

Reflecting on her journey to college basketball, she encourages younger players to be confident from the jump and take advantage of the opportunities before them.

“At the end of the day, if you are confident in yourself and you show that you are putting in all the work, it will show on the court,” Buggs said.

Feature image by Alexander Novoa

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