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Junior Kayla Padilla's relationship with Homecourt Edge Basketball sprouted when she was in elementary school. 

Credit: Samantha Turner

On July 1, 2021, the NIL era arrived.

For the first time ever, student-athletes were able to profit off their name, image, and likeness. 

The new legislation ushered in a plethora of brand deals and endorsements from athletes across all sports. These deals varied in size and scope. Some athletes opted to partner with large companies to endorse products, while others worked with brands near to their own passions and purpose. 

Penn women’s basketball junior Kayla Padilla chose the latter when she took her first step into the wild world of NIL.

Shortly after the legislation passed, Padilla partnered with Homecourt Edge Basketball, the trainer that she has worked with for the past decade. In collaboration with Padilla, HCE debuted the first piece in the HCExKP merch collection.

The shirt, titled the “KP Logo Silent Assassin T-Shirt,” captures Padilla’s Filipino roots, as well as key ideals of Filipino culture.

“I think, in Filipino culture, hard work and family are just two of the biggest things that they’re about," Padilla said. "So, I think just representing that through a shirt introduces me and represents me.”

Padilla first joined the HCE family when she was in elementary school. Now, she stands as one of the Ivy League’s most formidable scoring threats. Her partnership with HCE, however, goes beyond just on-court performance.

To Padilla, basketball is a vehicle to something bigger, and as she continues her career with Penn, she will have the chance to show everyone that sports are a critical part of our relationships, our culture, and our lives. 

HCE prides itself on developing athletes as both players and people, and it aims to build a family-focused culture that supports athletes that train there.

“We take kids when they get in, [from] the ground up and develop them the whole way through, not just as basketball players, but as people,” Padilla’s HCE trainer, Jared Lloyd, said. “We’re a faith-centered and family-centered program. Faith and family are the two most important things, and basketball is obviously pretty important as well.”

The HCE values off-court contributions just as much as on-court ones, making Padilla a logical choice in the decision to select an ambassador of the brand.

Off the court, Padilla runs an online platform The Sideline Post, dedicated to giving student-athletes a place to tell their story. She has also helped Lloyd train some of his younger players, serving as a role model for young athletes eager to follow a similar path.

“I always wanted to bring in someone that, to me, really understood our brand and has been a part of our brand,” Lloyd said. “To me, there was no better person than her. I came to her, and I said we should try to do it, and [we] put a line together.”

HCE also seeks to use basketball to build relationships and character that can last a lifetime. Its trainers and coaches know the power of basketball to unite people across barriers. Padilla also approaches the game this way, which made the partnership make even more sense to both her and the HCE team.

“It’s so much bigger than basketball for her,” Lloyd said. “She’s not just focused on the sport, but she’s focused on using the sport to build awareness. [She is] using sport for something way bigger, which is what we at Homecourt Edge believe as well. We’re using sport as a vehicle and [as] a tool for something way bigger than that.”

Padilla’s debut t-shirt and merch collection is only the beginning of her NIL efforts, and with her junior season approaching, she knows there will be more opportunities ahead.

“I’m excited for the season to start, because NIL started and I haven’t played since freshman year, so I feel like I’ve been kind of off the map since then,” Padilla said. “So, I think more opportunities might open up for me individually once we start playing.”

Padilla enters the 2021-2022 season as a contender for a first team All-Ivy selection. The junior will be a large part of the Quakers’ offensive game plan and will have the attention of Ivy defenses this winter. 

When Penn tips off its season on Nov. 14 at Hartford, Padilla will once again have her on-court platform. Only this time, thanks to the new NIL legislation, she will have the chance to use that platform to continue to build her brand.