The way Kayla Belles and Kolby Lee met is the most Generation Z thing ever.
Belles was from Ithaca, Michigan, playing basketball at Michigan State. Lee was from Meridian, Idaho, playing ball for BYU. When Belles decided she wanted to considering transferring she looked online to see if she could chat with some possible future teammates. She found Lee’s name attached to the Cougar men’s team and was inspired to click on his link.
“We started talking and four months later he flew to Michigan to meet me,” Belles said. “He was so nervous. We’d talked for hours on FaceTime but we’d never met. I feel like it’s the weirdest story to tell our future children and grandchildren.”
Eighteen months after meeting online, Lee proposed to Belles out in front of the Logan Temple, where Belles has family.
“We’d actually gone ring shopping and I didn’t think the ring we picked out would be there for a few weeks,” Belles said. “I was told we were going to take family pictures. Then I was picking up roses around the gates of the temple. It was such a surprise. I told myself I would hold myself together but I didn’t.”
Belles and Lee are to be wed on Aug. 15, joining Connor Harding and Paisley (Johnson) Harding as power couples who play for the men’s and women’s basketball teams at BYU at the same time.
Belles said she plans on applying for an NCAA waiver to play immediately based on her faith and the fact that her husband will be at BYU as well.
Belles was originally recruited by the Cougars out of high school in Michigan, where she weighed a difficult choice between staying home to play or moving out to Utah to play for her faith.
“I was stuck between the two schools,” Belles said. “After a lot of prayer I chose Michigan State because I had the feeling I needed to be there.”
The 6-foot-3 Belles led Ithaca High School in Michigan to a 65-10 record over her three seasons in the varsity team but missed her senior season due to an injury. She played in 49 games over two years with Michigan State where she averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the field. She was voted her team’s most improved player as a sophomore.
But she felt she needed a change.
“The biggest part of it was growing up so strong in the church and our priority as a family was not to play sports on Sunday,” Belles said. “It was a hard transition at Michigan State. For half of the year I wasn’t able to attend church because of practices and games. At BYU, I look forward to having teammates and everyone on the team with the same high standards and a great environment and culture. I love what the university stands for and I love being able to stand for something greater than sports.”
As a player, Belles felt she may have been too focused on points during her time at Michigan State.
“I’ve learned over the past few years that you really have to be indispensable,” she said. “My job as a player is to not be selfish or think just about me. I need to focus on rebounding, boxing out and setting screens. I’ve tried to change my mindset about helping my teammates more. I may not be the leading scorer in a game but the team needs me to be a big body and to help any way I can.”
Belles is finally on the BYU campus to participate in voluntary workouts and spend quality time with her fiancé. Getting to know new teammates online might be awkward for some but Belles had already kind of cleared that hurdle getting to know Lee.
“We would have team calls every week and at first everyone wanted to interrogate the newbies,” she said. “We would have a question of the day, so piece by piece we got to know each other.”
BYU coach Jeff Judkins will have a formidable front line with 6-7 senior Sara Hamson, Belles, 6-2 redshirt freshman Kyra Beckman, 6-5 junior Malli Perri and 6-1 redshirt sophomore Lauren Gustin, who is also getting married in August.
“We’re excited to have Kayla,” Judkins said. “We recruited her when she was in high school so we’re happy to get her here. She’s physical and her size and inside presence will be a great help for us. She got to play in a big conference for two years and that experience will be an added plus for us.”