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ORANGE OFFICER OF THE YEAR
Kaylee Byon, Rosary, Sr.
Kaylee Byon fit in well with Rosary’s girls basketball team from the start.
As a freshman, she joined an all-star cast that won the CIF State Division I title. Next season, she helped the Royals snatch Mater Dei’s 90-game Trinity League winning streak and conquer another SoCal Division I regional crown before the pandemic stopped the race.
The unique ensemble then graduated and headed to the ranks of the university.
Fortunately for the rosary became Byon, and so did the success of the royals.
The cunning point guard proved capable of bringing the team back to prominent place, and for her efforts, the Utah Valley-bound Byon Register is the 2021-22 Orange County girls basketball player of the year.
“She was slowly evolving into a player where she now had to be the leader,” Rosary coach Richard Yoon said. “We looked at each other as we graduated (the other star players and thought), ‘What are we going to do now?’ (Byon) was, ‘Well, we’ll probably find out.’ “
Byon solved many obstacles with his well-rounded play and leadership as a senior this winter.
After a solid junior campaign, 5-foot-6 Byon averaged 19.2 points, 6.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds and produced six double-doubles to help Rosary earn another Trinity League co-title with Mater Dei.
She underwent a back injury last month of the season to help the Royals (17-10) reach the Division I semi-finals of the SoCal Regional playoffs. They lost to final champion Windward in overtime.
The highlight of Rosary’s season was a 51-40 victory over top-ranked Mater Dei in late January. The triumph gave the Royals a share of the league title and No. 1 spot in the county for a few weeks.
“I just told my players they have to come out with confidence (because I know we can beat them and we did,” said Byon, who had a game-high 23 points, five assists and played on top of A battle-changing, 1-1-3 zone defense. “It was a really exciting match for all of us.”
Yoon said the performance represented Byon’s leadership as co-captain with Allison Clarke and Ava Dominguez.
“The level that she expects everyone to be at is her greatest strength,” Yoon said of Byon, selected for the Trinity League MVP. “She sets goals for everyone. She says, ‘This is where we want to be, and come on, get on my shoulders if you need it.’ “
Byon, an All-CIF committee in the Open Division, said she learned the leadership skills of being mentored by members of the all-star cast, her freshman and sophomore seasons.
She said players like Kate Goostrey and Asia Avinger, Registers Player of the Year 2020, now starting in San Diego State, were crucial in her development.
“They would always push me to get better,” she said.
Byon’s basketball journey will continue in the Utah Valley, which reached the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament this season. She also dreams of playing professionally in South Korea, where her parents Rosa and Peter were born.
“The love of the game is just different in me,” said Byon, a former dancer who switched to basketball at the age of 9. “As soon as I touched the ball, I fell in love with it.”
The Rosary also has strong feelings for Byon, a four-year-old starting with an average of 4.1 grades.
“She’s probably the most decorated player we’ve had,” Yoon said. “We will definitely miss her and her leadership.”