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Interview: Kyra Lambert talks Duke, Texas, Latvia and returning from a thrice-torn ACL

The talented globetrotter talks hoops and her life beyond hoops, including the importance of her faith and social work initiatives.

Texas v South Carolina
Kyra Lambert playing for the Texas Longhorns during the 2021 Elite Eight in her hometown of San Antonio.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Kyra Lambert is a serious baller, but that you probably know that.

She’s averaging 15.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.1 rebounds per game in EuroCup Women—a club competition for the best European teams that didn’t qualify for the EuroLeague—for Latvian TTT Rīga. What you may not know about her is that, when off the court, she loves to read, cook, and visit different coffee shops. Most importantly, she works as, in her own words, “a Program Coordinator for the 318 Foundation, which is a nonprofit working to close the opportunity gap for girls in historically-underserved communities through mentorship, immersive experiences and sports.”

If you want to learn more about her, we got you covered.

Your number is retired by Samuel Clemens High School in Texas, an honor well deserved. Especially considering your individual performance on December 16, 2014, when you dropped 50 points. Your stat line from your senior season is just crazy (averages of 26 points, seven rebounds, five steals and three assists). But you transferred to Samuel Clemens for the final two years of your high school career. What motivated the move and how did playing there elevate you to a different level?

Even though I have been blessed athletically, academics was always my primary focus. I knew I wanted to attend an elite academic university when it came time to choose a college. Samuel Clemens had the International Baccalaureate (IB) program starting my junior year, which would help me get ready for that transition. So, my parents and I made the decision to transfer high schools. The IB program was rigorous and tough, but it definitely prepared me for the academic challenges of Duke.

Playing at Clemens helped my leadership skills the most. Due to transferring, I had to play junior varsity my junior year. So, I used that as an opportunity to work on my communication and different parts of my game. That was actually my favorite year of high school basketball. I had so much fun on the court with my teammates, and our chemistry translated to a lot of success on the court that next year, my senior season.

How does a talented player from San Antonio end up at Duke? What did the recruitment process look like and what did you do to make the move from Texas to North Carolina as comfortable as possible?

Coming out of high school, I knew I wanted to leave Texas for college and experience a new environment. I was blessed to have many offers from top colleges across the country. This allowed me to meet and build relationships with many genuine and legendary coaches. With academics being a priority, I wanted to go to an institution that was elite both academically and athletically, which is how I ultimately decided to attend Duke University. In the back of my mind, I knew basketball wouldn’t last forever, so it was imperative to me to get a degree that held weight and meant something. When I stepped on the campus and saw the culture of excellence both in the classroom and on the court, I knew it was going to be a good fit for me.

Transitioning to North Carolina was smooth. I found a great community among my peers and also a local church to attend, which helped tremendously.

How important was it to return to Texas to complete your college career? Or maybe it wasn’t important at all and it was something that just happened?

After receiving my Master’s from Duke during the height of COVID, I had a lot of options. Again, many of the same coaches reached out when I entered my name in the transfer portal, but I wasn’t able to take visits due to the pandemic. UT was familiar and only an hour from my home—as opposed to a three-hour flight to North Carolina—so I thought it would be nice to end my collegiate career at a place where my family and friends could see me play in person more often.

The biggest blessing was the NCAA Tournament being held in San Antonio that year. So, I was blessed to play my final collegiate games in front of all of the people who helped me get to where I am today.

You returned from a torn ACL three times. What kept you going and did you adjust your game because of the injuries to avoid them in the future?

My faith in God kept me going. I literally would not be where I am today without Him. Each injury brought different and tougher challenges, but I knew God had more in store. The village around me was continually praying, supporting, and encouraging me throughout the process and I am so grateful for them. There were times I wanted to stop and move on to whatever was next, but God put it on my heart to keep going. As I was rehabbing, so many young players and parents of kids in similar situations would reach out asking questions and wanting to talk. That’s when I knew God was using what I was going through to bless, inspire, and touch other people.

When I was first released to play, I was extremely hesitant to take contact. But after taking that first big hit and seeing that my body was strong enough, I didn’t change much in my game. My biggest change was off the court in the weight room and in my preparation. (Shout out to Cat Lass and Zack Zilner!). After surgeries, rehab never stops. Even now, I still do certain exercises and mobility that I did back in college because I learned back then what helps and works for my body.

The game of basketball took you to Turkey, Slovakia, New Zealand, France and now Latvia. Do you consider it a blessing to be allowed to play in so many countries or was it a necessity?

Absolutely, this has been an incredible journey! I see basketball as a vehicle that has allowed me to experience different cultures and meet so many amazing people across the globe. It is such a blessing to be able to say basketball is my “job”, because I love to do it. Living abroad 8-10 months out of the year doesn’t come without it’s challenges, but I can say the experience is definitely worth it.

You like to make travel vlogs about your experiences abroad. There’s one about going to Latvia. Can we get an update on life in Latvia now that you’ve been there for a couple of months?

Life in Latvia has been good! The city of Rīga is beautiful and there is a lot to do. The food is good and a lot of people speak English, which is always a plus. I love my team and our culture. They have all been so sweet and it’s cool getting to know more about their country, it’s history and the people. The biggest adjustment for me has been the weather. When I got here in August is was 75 degrees and sunny, and now it’s 32 degrees with snow everywhere. So, it has taken some getting used to.

What are the expectations for TTT Rīga this season and what are your personal goals for the near (and far) future?

Our expectations are to continue to improve as the season progresses. We have gotten a lot better since the start of the season three months ago, so we are trending in the right direction. We continue to play with heart, work hard, and believe in each other each day; and we let the results take care of themselves.

Personally, I want to continue to improve and expand my game to best help our team this season. I don’t look far in the future, but I know I want to play with and against the best. I’m going to continue to stay faithful and confident that God will take me where I’m supposed to be.

A special thank you to Lorenzo Gallotti of Two Points agency for arranging the interview.