From A Parents’ Perspective, Virginia Tech’s Success Isn’t Surprising

The success that Taylor Geiman (left), Elizabeth Kitley (middle) and Cayla King (right) have had at Virginia Tech doesn’t surprise the parents of Kitley or King. (Jaylynn Nash/ACC)

DALLAS — Ralph Kitley and Tom King knew from the very beginning that their daughters were in good hands at Virginia Tech.

Close friends from Greensboro, N.C., Elizabeth Kitley and Cayla King played together at Northwest Guilford High School. They also visited colleges together during the recruiting process. But both were sold on what Kenny Brooks was building in Blacksburg.

“In the recruiting process, Coach Brooks did a better job than anyone else in terms of building relationships before they step foot on campus with the whole family,” Ralph Kitley told Tech Sideline. “It’s well-documented with Raven; it was the same with me and Loretta. He just built that early on, so you knew when she got there, she was going to be in good hands.”

King was very wide-eyed. She contributed right away, though her playing time fluctuated. But she got into Brooks’ inner circle very early.

Cayla King, pictured with her parents, Tom and Elda, has developed so much over her four years at Virginia Tech. (Jon Fleming)

There was a belief from both parties that she’d continue to grow, even with talented players ahead of her like Taja Cole, Aisha Sheppard and Dara Mabrey. And it happened.

“She developed into such a good player, a good leader, a kid who just gives everything she has every time out on the court,” Tom King said of Cayla. “I’m just so proud of her. It wasn’t easy when she walked in. It was something she developed, and I thank Coach Brooks for that. He had faith in her from the beginning and they worked with her. It’s just so fun to watch the metamorphosis on and off the court.”

The same goes for Kitley, who started all 121 games she played in across four years prior to Friday’s Final Four game. She evolved into a more dynamic player, one who earned ACC Player of the Year accolades twice.

“All of the hands-on stuff he’s done with Elizabeth, helping her develop her game, it’s been fun to watch,” Ralph said. “I knew it was going to happen. For it to work out the way that he planned it has been tremendous.”

Elizabeth Kitley, standing with her parents Ralph and Loretta on senior night, has helped take Virginia Tech to new heights. (Jon Fleming)

Though the Hokies were fairly successful in the beginning, it wasn’t consistently sunshine and rainbows. In 2019-20 when Kitley and King were freshmen, Tech finished 21-9 (11-7 ACC), and the team lost some tough games.

But the Hokies stuck together and grew closer, specifically the core group of Kitley, King, Taylor Geiman and Georgia Amoore. The Kitleys even took Amoore into their home during the pandemic in 2020 since she couldn’t go back to her native Australia.

But through all of the tough times, the family environment Brooks cultivated was at the center of everything. It’s something that comes natural to him due to his close connection with his own wife and children, and it’s helped Virginia Tech reach new heights.

“It’s just amazing to me,” Ralph said. “In this day and age and the transfer portal being what it is, I love this group. Georgia, Cayla, Elizabeth and Taylor. Seeing them come in at the ground level and build this up and be a part of it is really something special.” 

Elizabeth Kitley helped build the Hokies’ program from the ground up. (Ivan Morozov)

The NCAA tournament appearance in 2021 was cool, but Tech one-upped itself with a higher seed and a better season in 2022. Yet, 2023 has been the culmination of everything.

An ACC Championship. A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. An Elite Eight appearance and subsequent Final Four berth. The program has shattered records and blown the minds of so many, and it has another opportunity to keep the journey going on Friday night in Dallas against LSU.

Kitley and King aren’t surprised their daughters and the Hokies made it to this point, though. They saw the gradual ascent and knew that their girls and Virginia Tech would reach the mountaintop eventually.

“You watch a kid go through all of the struggles, the highs and the lows,” Tom said. “Every kid has it. To get to watch them come here and just be celebrated, it’s just a great experience, and I’m so happy for all of them.

Cayla King and Virginia Tech play in the Final Four on Friday evening. (Michael Shroyer)

“The way they play together, it’s as if they don’t care who does what as long as they get the win. … They just do their thing.”

And boy, has that mindset been successful.

10 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I attended JMU, when Kenny played ball there, and got to know him. He was every bit a class act like he is now. I am so happy for him, the players and the families to see the team succeed in such a way. to see the sisterhood amongst them and the joy with which they play is truly amazing. Coach Brooks has done such a job creating the atmosphere to make all this possible. This will be a team to remember. Way to go Kenny!

  2. This is a great article. Also read after loss last night. Couldn’t be prouder of team. Knew we were getting something special with Coach Brooks. Have a connection in H’Burg, They were sorry to see him leave JMU. Thanks also agree it helps ease loss last night knowing where we are and this can do nothing but help recruiting

  3. Thank you for this David.

    Read it after the loss and it helps ease the pain a little to know we are doing it the right way. Not sure what the future holds, but this was a special team and I hope we can appreciate this moment in time.

  4. Great article! This is the behind the scenes sort of stuff you don’t normally get. Kudos for the good work. The culture of this team feels a lot like the Coach Beamer football teams.

    1. David, I saw your interview today on ACCN regarding women’s basketball. Good job and great insights. Agree with you, this team is locked in!

  5. Great article, David. I had read or seen where Caylah’s dad was really the one who insisted to Ralph Kitley that Liz should focus on basketball(wanted to play softball). It took a couple of talks, but she eventually agreed. And, as they say, the rest is history.

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