‘A total package’: Kayla Debrow’s emergence as a must-watch player at Mike Glenn’s camp

Florida School for the Deaf & Blind center Kayla Debrow (13) poses with a basketball during the Dragons' 2021-22 season. (Courtesy FSDB Athletics)

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Florida School for the Deaf & Blind center Kayla Debrow (13) poses with a basketball during the Dragons' 2021-22 season. (Courtesy FSDB Athletics)

Mike Glenn can’t talk about his 42nd annual basketball camp without mentioning incoming camper Kayla Debrow and raving about what she can do on the basketball court. In all of the years of the Mike Glenn Basketball Camp for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Glenn said he hasn’t seen a prospect with Debrow’s combination of size, skill and promise, and her return to camp is the reason that Glenn, who played 10 seasons in the NBA and was a Hawks guard from 1981-85, is most excited for summer to arrive.

A rising sophomore at Florida School for the Deaf & Blind in St. Augustine, Fla., Debrow is - in Glenn’s estimation - the best deaf player in the country. Her 6-foot-3 frame and her versatile skill set won him over, and he believes she will get only better.

“I’m trying to push her and push the knowledge of her,” Glenn said. “I think she has the potential to play major college basketball and maybe WNBA ball.”

Southwest DeKalb High coach Kathy Walton sends several of her players to Glenn’s camp every year to compete and play with the camp’s deaf players. After seeing Debrow dominate her competition with her basketball IQ, rebounding and shooting abilities, Walton couldn’t resist inquiring about the possibility of a transfer.

“I was trying to get the coach to talk to the parents to get them to move her up to my school,” Walton said. “That’s how good she is. I was like, ‘I know this is unusual to see if you want to lose a kid of this ability, but this girl is amazing.’”

Walton called Debrow a “total package,” and she was impressed by Debrow’s leadership and communication skills at such a young age. Whether playing with deaf or hearing players, the standout center made sure her teammates were on the same page.

“She had a way of getting their attention and communicating with them and she led by example,” Walton said. “They just followed her lead of what she would do on the court.”

And that was before Debrow had even entered ninth grade. Since then, Debrow powered Florida School for the Deaf & Blind to a 17-8 record, averaging 11.4 points and leading the Dragons with 10.7 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game as just a freshman. FSDB earned its first-ever state playoff berth and reached the 3A Regional Quarterfinals, where eventual state semifinalist Florida State University High School ended the Dragons’ magical run.

Dottie Smith serves as a scorekeeper for FSDB’s games and has brought students to Glenn’s camp since 1994. Smith called Debrow an “amazing athlete” and a welcome presence on and off the court.

“Because she’s so young and a part of a developing team that will be graduating a few seniors, they live vicariously through her youth,” Smith said. “She’s a young player and young athlete, but also a leader.”

Glenn’s primary goal for campers is to improve their game through drills, afternoon 3-on-3 competitions and evening scrimmages. But he also prioritizes exposure and helping his athletes find an opportunity on the next level.

His best camper in the camp’s history, Willie Brown, earned a scholarship to play Division I basketball at Hofstra after scoring 40 points in the camp’s All-Star game. Brown later transferred to Georgia State and averaged 10.6 points per game in the 1987-88 season.

Glenn has similar aspirations for Debrow and hopes to enlist members of the Atlanta Dream to work on her skills.

“She can play,” Glenn said. “And we’re going to give her passes, work on her footwork, encourage her - everything we can do to promote her. All of those things are important in making that opportunity work for her.”

Glenn started his camp while still playing in the NBA and won the 1981 Citizenship Award for his efforts with the deaf community. Giving back to deaf culture came natural for him - the community, especially deaf women, taught him how to play basketball and was among his staunchest supporters.

Glenn expanded his camp to include female campers in 1983, and he is proudest of the growth in numbers and talent level on the girls’ side, leading to Debrow’s arrival. Breaking down barriers and giving deaf players the opportunity to sharpen and showcase their talent has been the highlight of Glenn’s 41 years of running the camp.

“That’s all a deaf player wants – let me play ball,” Glenn said. “We’re going to sharpen their skills and round off some corners that may not be a smooth as they should be and teaching some things that inspire them to go as far as their talent will take them.”