Maurice Kirby’s basketball journey hasn’t been smooth; he overcame many adversities to get where he is at today. Fortunately, his family and their relationships with basketball has continued to motivate him.
Kirby, a sophomore communications major, grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona the home of Northern Arizona University (NAU). NAU recently made news, after a school shooting left one student dead and three injured. It was a sobering experience for Kirby.
“It hurt,” said Kirby. “I know people that go there. It’s not something you think would happen there. It drives me. I know there are people over there rooting for me.”
Basketball came naturally to him. His mother Michelle, who played basketball at NAU from 1986-90, first introduced him to the game.
“She never pushed basketball on [me],” Kirby said. “But [I] gradually picked [it] up. It became a family thing for us. We’re a close-knit group and a common interest, basketball, brought us closer.”
One of Kirby’s first major obstacles came before he even started high school.
He was an excited eighth grader heading to a prestigious UCLA basketball camp when he got a phone call that made him halt in his tracks. He was told he had chiari malformation, a condition in which brain tissue interferes with the spinal canal. It caused Kirby discomfort and made him sporadically pass out. He underwent surgery. Kirby said the recovery process was difficult.
“I was supposed to be in the hospital for a month,” he said. “But I was … able to walk out on my own … after two weeks. I was out of basketball for five and a half months. My neck was very stiff. I couldn’t move it. I wasn’t myself [on the court] for about a month after that.”
His collegiate career began at Virginia Tech University. But in 2014, the Hokies’ head coach was fired after a 9-22 season. Kirby, a redshirt first-year at the time, was unsure what the switch would mean for him and decided to start over.
“When the new coaching staff came in, you know, they didn’t recruit me,” Kirby said. “You never know what’s going to happen with that.”
Kirby decided to transfer to Coffeyville Community College (CCC) in Kansas. He’s the third Rambler on the current roster to transfer from CCC, accompanied by guard Earl Peterson and forward Montel James.
Throughout Kirby’s career, he has grown closer with his mother and brother, Devin, who recently committed to playing basketball for Montana State University.
“We’re very open with each other,” he said. “He was there when I made my decision to go to Virginia Tech and [CCC] and now here. He leaned on me a lot during his recruitment. He saw what happened to me and he didn’t want that to happen again.”
One of Kirby’s biggest hurdles came over the summer, when his grandmother died.
“She was a big part of my family and was my brother and I’s biggest fan,” Kirby said. “This year we decided to do everything we can to play for her and her memory.”
As a 6-foot-9 and 240 pound forward, Kirby is the largest player on the Ramblers’ bench. Kirby said he knows there’s some serious potential in the men’s basketball team this year and is ready to work.
“I want to be a part of something special,” he said. “Something great, something bigger than myself … Obviously there are things we need to clean up, but overall we look good. We’re ready to play.”
Loyola’s men’s basketball team is currently 4-3. The Ramblers are expected to play at Notre Dame on Dec. 13 at 1 p.m.