October 17, 2017
After leaving the sport she loved, Kayli Sartori has comeback in a big way.
In 2014, following a successful three-year stint at the University of the Fraser Valley, that ended in Sartori being named a CIS tournament all-star, Kayli decided to walk away from the sport that she had been playing since middle school: “My mind wasn’t at ease with basketball anymore,” she said about her decision to return home and work on her family’s farm, “and I wasn’t sure basketball is what I wanted to do.”
The forward, who had an impressive performance in her final nationals tournament before taking time off, started all three games and averaged 11 points and 6.7 rebounds. Sartori had left basketball in her past, until a couple friends took her to the B.C. Boys AAA Provincial finals. It was at that game she realized how much she missed the sport. She returned to UFV in 2015 with a better mindset and bigger goals, which included playing professionally overseas.
She returned to the game a year later with a vengeance, determined to prove that even after a year off, she deserved her spot on the Cascade’s roster. In her return, Sartori averaged 18.4 points per game and earned both Basketball BC’s female university athlete of the year, as well as UFV’s female athlete of the year.
Sartori has always had the travel bug, which was one of the main reasons why she decided to take a break from the sport, which had become her life, “I always thought basketball was what was holding me back,” she said. Upon her return, it was advice from her coach, Al Tuchscherer, that proved to be the most true: “Basketball will take you places, if you let it.”
Although she had a successful final year at UFV, it was what happened this past summer that proved to Sartori that her decision to return to the game was the right one.
“In August, there was a lot of buzz about me signing with a team in Portugal, which was exciting,” Sartori said of the attention she was receiving from European teams, “it just sort of hit me that I was actually going to do it.” But, despite conversations with teams in Portugal, Sartori decided to sign her first professional contract with Al Riyadi, a team in Beirut, Lebanon, which she admitted wasn’t an easy choice to make.
“I’d spent all my time preparing for Portugal. Portugal was going to be so fun, it had the weather and the beaches, so when I signed the contract in Lebanon, I wasn’t sure how I felt,” she said reflecting back on her decision. “At that point I realized I might not have been going to Portugal for the right reasons. When it came to Lebanon, I realized that I was going there only for basketball and I was going to work hard and prove myself and then hopefully move up.”
After spending all of September travelling and playing in Lebanon, Sartori returned to B.C for a month before heading back for November. “I’m hoping that next year I’ll have a solid foundation and a contract that lets me be there all year round,” she said looking back on her first experience. “[Al Riyadi] is really amazing and they have been really understanding, with it being my first time playing in Europe and playing professionally, so I really hope that I get to sign a contract with another amazing club next year.”
Sartori continues to see basketball in her future, and is going into next season with new goals, many of them directing her to a spot playing for Canada’s National Team. She’s focused on bettering her game overseas before returning home. “Right now the Eastern European Women’s Basketball League is wonderful,” she said of what she’s currently focused on, “its got good competition and well rounded teams. I think it was a really good stepping-stone for me.”
Kayli Sartori has faced a lot of uncertainty and hurdles throughout her career, but ultimately it has all been worth it. “This whole process is really exciting and fun,” she said, “at one point I almost gave up on that, but looking back on that from where I am now I’m happy things worked out the way they did.” She encourages anyone who shares a similar goal to work toward it and not let doubt interfere with their ability to achieve it.
Written By: Sarah Reid