College of the Canyons forward Kalana Inemer isn’t aware of too many other collegiate basketball players that could relate to her story.
Inemer is in her second stint with the Cougars. Her first came for the 2010-11 season, when she had two children. That was already three years removed from a decorated career at Hart.
Now, in her second go-around, she’s 28 years old and has three children. She also leads COC with 13.1 rebounds per game and is second on the team with 14.5 points per game.
“It’s funny, because my oldest daughter, Kamya, who’s 9, is closer in age to most girls on the team than I am,” Inemer said. “It’s different. There’s a little more pressure on me compared to last time.”
An illness paired with the end of the season — all while taking care of Kamya and her son, Garrett — led Inemer to missing nearly all of her classes and dropping out in 2011.
“I thought it maybe wasn’t for me,” Inemer said. “I had to focus more on my family. It was hard but thought I was making the best decision.
It was until November 2016 that Hart needed some extra player for its boys alumni tournament. She hadn’t even picked up a basketball in over a year.
Inemer played so well at the tournament that she decided to get an LA Fitness membership in order to play more frequently. But she still craved the structure.
“I reached out to (COC assistant coach Harlan Perlman) that next spring and said, ‘I know you’re going to call me crazy, but I’m thinking about coming back,” Inemer said. “He told me they had only six players at the time, so if I was serious, they’d have a spot for me.”
Along with Kamya and Garrett, Inemer now has a second son, Geo, who’s 3 years old. Kalana’s been separated from their father for over two years, who she said played a role in leaving COC initially.
“I realized I gave away basketball for him,” Kalana said. “When I started playing again, I realized how much I loved it.”
Her children were a bit more supportive. She also has a major fan in former Hart coach Dave Monroe, who’s closely followed her season from his home in Colorado.
“It’s been rough, but at the end of the day they’ve been very supportive,” Inemer said. “Geo loves basketball more than the other two. He’ll be out there rebounding at practice. He supports me with his actions, the others support me with their encouragement.”
Perlman and Cougars coach Greg Herrick have been instrumental in helping Kalana pull off the juggling act. They’ve let her bring her children to practice whenever necessary, and have been the spark that’s kept her going academically.
“There’s no way I could pull this off at any other junior college,” Inemer said.
Inemer doesn’t have any eligibility left with NCAA Division 1 programs, but could play at a Division 2 or NAIA program next season. She’s had some interest but doesn’t have an offer at this point.
The former All-CIF-Southern Section and three-time All-Foothill League performer hopes to get into coaching whenever her playing days come to a close. She’s already gotten a head-start in that department, mentoring Saugus alum Maryrose Elias, who’s averaging a team-high 15.2 points.
She’s assured at least eight more games for the Cougars before she shifts into that portion of her career, though.
“These are the last guaranteed games I have,” Inemer said. “I don’t want to look back next year and think I should’ve done something differently.”