For most households, bouncing a basketball in the house is frowned upon.
However in the Hanley home it is encouraged.
That has helped Kayla, Lexi and Ashley Hanley develop a family legacy with the Chi-Hi girls basketball program.
Kayla starred with the Cardinals for three years before moving on to play at UW-Eau Claire for the Blugolds. Lexi is in her fourth year on varsity for the Cardinals and has become one of the top players in the area. Ashley has made her way to varsity in her freshman season and is becoming more comfortable as the season goes on.
The trio are fueled by a passion for the game, one that started as toddlers and shows no signs of ever going away.
“They’ve had a ball in their hands since they were walking,” Chi-Hi girls basketball coach Becca Bestul said of the Hanley sisters.
The home team
The Hanley sisters grew up around basketball. As youngsters Kayla, Lexi and Ashley all cut their teeth with the game in their house and backyard. The sisters would partake in drills and exercises that helped them hone their skills.
“Everything I could do in eighth grade, Lexi could do it in fifth grade and everything Lexi could do in fifth grade for the most part Ashley was able to do by fourth grade,” Kayla said. “We just continuously learned from each other and built on it.”
There were also the competitive games in the backyard, where a basketball court has one basket for each girl and a series of notches on the ground. The girls would play games with each other, seeing who could make a shot from each mark first. They called themselves the ‘Home Team’, complete with a team breakdown whenever they were finished.
And their parents Terry and Rene would also join in and were both an active part in helping to grow their skills.
“A lot of our success definitely came from our dad and mom,” Kayla said. “All the rebounding and time and watching videos and teaching us things.”
One of Kayla’s most vivid memories came from watching videos and DVDs on dribbling from Forrest Larson. After watching, the girls would go into the kitchen where they each had a basketball on the wall. Each girl would pull their ball off the wall and start emulating what they saw on the floor in the kitchen.
Making an impact
As the oldest sister, Kayla led the way. A three-year varsity player, Hanley concluded her career with plenty of accolades. She is the Cardinal program’s career 3-point leader (132) and owns two of the top-six best single season performances (48, tied for first and 46, tied for third). She’s fifth in program history in total points (778) and eighth for most points in a season (305, 2011-12).
She was the Big Rivers Conference Player of the Year during her senior season and a three-time All-Chippewa County first team selection.
“When Kayla was in high school our team was good so I’ve never known anything besides our high school team being good,” Lexi said. “So every year we expect to win more games than we lose.”
Kayla has gone on to play basketball collegiately at UW-Eau Claire and entered play on Wednesday third on the team in scoring, averaging more than seven points per contest. It was during her time as a Blugold that the oldest Hanley sister was first introduced to first-year Chi-Hi coach Becca Bestul, then an assistant coach on staff for longtime coach Tonja Englund. After getting to know Bestul, Kayla had a simple message for her sisters after Bestul was hired as head coach this summer — she’s the kind of coach you’re looking for.
“It was really nice to get to know her myself and say ‘Hey, you guys are going to be fine’,” Kayla said of Bestul. “She’s really competitive, she wants to win and she’s really going to help you guys as a coach.”
Playing close to home has also helped Kayla keep an eye on her younger sisters, something she said was a factor when it came time to decide where to go to college.
Kayla and Lexi shared the floor during Kayla’s senior season. They also share in Kayla’s favorite high school memory. Kayla set the career 3-point record during a victory over Menomonie on Jan. 17, 2014 at Chi-Hi. It was Lexi that assisted on her older sister’s record-breaking shot.
“I’m always going to remember right where we were and how it happened,” Kayla said.
Even Ashley remembers where she was during that shot, sitting in the stands watching her sisters just as she did for several years prior to entering high school.
Lexi has started her own assault on the Cardinal record books and in her senior season could be in line for more accolades. She is third in program history in total points, passing Kayla earlier this season. She’s also third in school history in career 3-pointers.
Those lofty accolades are nice, but both Hanleys are even more proud of being part of a successful Cardinal program that has won at least 16 games in each of the past five seasons including four seasons with at least 20 wins.
“When you have the ball, you’re supposed to make everybody else better on the team and I definitely think that is part of our success. Assists are as good as points,” Lexi said.
This year Lexi is among Chippewa County leaders in scoring (14.9 points per game, third) and in 3-pointers (15, tied for second). She’s also sharing the varsity floor with Ashley, a freshman, and said she’s excited for the progress made thus far by the Cardinals. Chi-Hi has won six in a row and is 8-3 overall.
“I think that we’re heading in a good direction,” Lexi said. “Every game we play we’re getting better and better together and we’re definitely meshing more.”
Ashley has found her role coming off the bench for the Cardinals. Recently in a win over Neenah, Ashley hit three 3-pointers, a few assisted by Lexi. And the freshman has already let her older sisters know that she’s gunning for their places in the record book.
“They’ve definitely set an example for me and I want to be just like them,” Ashley said.
The future remains bright for all three sisters. Kayla still has the rest of this year and next with the Blugolds as she pursues a degree in special education/elementary education. Lexi has received plenty of interest from colleges to play basketball but hasn’t yet made a decision. Ashley is just starting out her high school career, but is already a solid contributor and one member of a strong freshman class for the program.
“They’re all talented but in different ways,” Bestul said. “They have similarities because they’re sisters, but they all have different strengths and it’s really been fun to get to know all three of them.”
No matter where they go, the game of basketball will always bond Kayla, Lexi and Ashley. The games in their parents’ backyard will not end once they move out, but rather they will grow. All three sisters are looking forward to sharing the game when they have children and can continue the tradition with a new generation.
“They’re just all good, well-rounded kids and they care about their teammates,” Bestul said. “I’m excited to coach Lexi for the rest of the year and Ashley for the next four years.”