NEW YORK (AP) - Kayla Alexander loved to draw since she was a child, when she was inspired by a patient teacher.
She continued to blossom as an artist as she grew, attending art camps at the encouragement of her mom. Then basketball entered her life, earning a scholarship to Syracuse before she went on to play in the WNBA and overseas. Now, the 28-year-old Canadian has been able to combine her two loves, writing and illustrating a children's book that will be released Thursday -- The Magic of Basketball.
"I have a passion for kids, love to teach, love ball and art," Alexander said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "How can I combine all these passions into one thing? Write a book, a children's book."
The book takes young readers along Alexander's journey, allowing them to chronicle their own thoughts in the book.
"I wanted to be encouraging and inspire kids," said Alexander, who recently signed with the Chicago Sky after getting cut by the Indiana Fever in training camp. "Through basketball, there's so much more to it than winning games. It teaches you life skills, perseverance, working with others. It gives gifts like traveling the world, free education. Basketball is magical because it gives you so much."
Alexander first came up with the idea a couple years ago while playing overseas in the winter. It took her a few years to put it together and illustrate it. While she grew up drawing on paper, Alexander started using an IPad, which made her life a lot easier, especially when trying to illustrate the lead character, Kayla, on nearly every page.
"The hard part was the drawing style. I like to do more fashion illustration. Long limbs, a lot of characters (in the book) have long limbs. I wanted it to be kid friendly. I went through so many different drafts of what the character looks like before I found a style I liked," she said. "I tried to make it look somewhat like me. Make it look like any little black girl. When I was young, girls were only looking up to NBA players, thankfully it's getting better. They are showing more (WNBA) games on TV. Kids can see things where they can believe it can be me one day."
In the original drafts, the book didn't. Alexander said she wanted the book to be fun and engaging to kids. Not be too word heavy. Alexander credits her sister, Kesia, for helping her come up with the idea of having the book rhyme.
"She said `Why are you doing that? You can make the whole book rhyme together, it made it flow much better," she said. "I'm thankful to her. She's trying to stay behind the scenes, but she helped make this come to life. Without her I wouldn't be publishing it."
Alexander isn't the first WNBA player to write a children's book. Elena Delle Donne has done a few, as well as Ivory Latta, in the past few years.
"I read Ivory Latta's and thought it was the cutest thing ever," Alexander said. "Young girls don't get to hear the stories of young women and I'm glad that more women are sharing their stories and hope it continues."