In this series, The Mercury asked Manhattan High coaches who the best athlete they ever coached was. While many coaches were unable to pick one specific person, a few athletes stood above the rest. In this edition, MHS volleyball head coach Krista Schmitz speaks about what set Kia Wilson apart from other athletes she’s coached.
Kia Wilson never gave any indication that she was interested in anything besides volleyball when she was on the court.
It wasn’t easy for Manhattan High head volleyball coach Krista Schmitz or any of the other MHS coaches to pull the middle hitter off the court. Wilson always was searching for something else she could do to get an edge, to keep improving.
“You’d almost have to send her home,” Schmitz said. “She’d put in more reps to make it better. Those moments where you watch her play, you’d say, ‘It’s time to go,’ but she’s still out there getting better.”
Volleyball isn’t even Wilson’s first love.
Wilson always has been a basketball player at heart but still made a large enough impression on Schmitz for Schmitz to call her the greatest athlete she ever coached.
Wilson played both volleyball and basketball at Manhattan from 2015 to 2019 and is now playing collegiate basketball at Nebraska-Omaha. In her MHS volleyball career, Wilson was a two-time All-Flint Hills selection and a two-time all-Centennial League selection.
Schmitz first met Wilson when Wilson was in eighth grade. Then an assistant coach at Manhattan, Schmitz immediately noticed the physical traits that can boost a volleyball career.
“She was tall, so she stuck out then, too,” Schmitz said.
Wilson now stands 6-foot-1. However, another trait stuck out even more than Wilson’s physical size.
“She was always smiling,” Schmitz said. “When you’d see her, she’d immediately greet you, and it really sticks out when an athlete reaches out to a coach to see how they’re doing or to say, ‘Hi.’ Her overall demeanor was always very kind.”
Wilson’s easygoing personality allowed her to be extremely coachable. She arrived at Manhattan as a raw volleyball player but was able to continue to develop over the course of her career through practice habits.
Her progression showed through her accomplishments. After not earning any accolades her freshman and sophomore seasons, Wilson was named a Centennial League honorable mention and to the All-Flint Hills second team after recording 165 kills in her junior year.
As a senior, she recorded 188 kills and 20 serving aces and was named to the All-Flint Hills first team and Centennial League second team.
“You could tell she was an athlete, she was just raw,” Schmitz said. “As she kept playing for Manhattan, those skills developed, and she honed it in. By her senior year, she was quite the lethal weapon for us, whether that was as a hitter or middle blocker. It was just those reps that she put in.”
Despite her prowess on the volleyball court, Wilson drifted toward basketball as her main sport. She was an All-Flint Hills first team and Centennial League first-team member as a senior in basketball. So when offers came in to play collegiate volleyball, Wilson turned them down.
She would stick with the sport she loved the most.
Even though she leaned toward basketball, Wilson imprinted herself in Schmitz’ brain. Her influence is one Schmitz now holds up as an example of how a good volleyball player can be formed.
“You’d have never known basketball was her first sport, because she put so much effort into volleyball when she played,” Schmitz said. “She worked so hard. Her work ethic with us. She eventually developed into a great middle blocker.”