December 4, 2022

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

UCLA parents’ love penetrates the bubble in Indianapolis

Every time he went to the hotel lobby to pick up his food order, Johnny Juzang saw the same friendly delivery guy. It didn’t matter which restaurant Juzang ordered from or what he had picked — tomato bisque soup, pasta with shrimp, sushi or a coconut chocolate vegan popsicle — it was always the same routine with the same guy.

The food would get dropped off. Hotel staff would take it through a secure area over to Juzang, the UCLA sophomore guard who has become one of the breakthrough stars of the NCAA tournament. Juzang would wave through two banks of glass doors at the delivery guy.

His father.

That was as close as Johnny and Maxie Juzang could get during the first week of the first NCAA tournament staged in a pandemic. Safety precautions prevented family members from being in direct contact with their sons, forcing them to savor small gestures like a wave, a wink, a smile.

Coley and Michelle Kyman developed their own family bonding routine with son Jake, the Bruins’ sophomore sharpshooter. They would text him whenever they were near the team hotel to see whether he was free to come over and wave from the ninth-floor window of his room.

“Just knowing that we’re there, even though it’s not really seeing him,” Coley Kyman said, “we’re his parents, so I could feel it and just knowing we’re there really helps.”

Jake Kyman’s family cheers him on as UCLA plays under COVID protocol. From left to right, Sherri Mauney (grandmother), Brayden Kyman (brother), Michelle Kyman (mother), and Coley Kyman (father).

(Ben Bolch/Los Angeles Times)

Being there has led to one shining moment after another for the cluster of UCLA parents who have converged on this college basketball capital for the Bruins’ rousing run to a regional semifinal. They have watched their sons win three games in five days from a safe distance, often leaving them to celebrate among themselves.

After a breathless rally to beat Michigan State in overtime in a First Four game, Coley Kyman navigated the bleachers inside Mackey Arena to hug the mother of point guard Tyger Campbell and the father of forward Jaime Jaquez Jr., masks hiding the smiles that split their faces.

Maxie Juzang cherished his son’s one-legged celebration with teammates after his two baskets to start the overtime. It had been a wild swing of emotions after seeing Johnny carried off the court with a sprained ankle only minutes earlier; his participation in the revelry alleviated his father’s worries.

“It was a great sign,” Maxie Juzang said, “because if it was really bad, he couldn’t have put any pressure on it.”

It was also a rare opportunity to see the Bruins in person. Fan attendance was barred in many arenas this season, including Pauley Pavilion, and limited in others. Coley Kyman had gone to only two games before last week, attending UCLA’s victory over Utah in Salt Lake City and its loss to Oregon State during the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.

As he watched the Bruins play the Spartans before a crowd capped at 1,350 — just 9% of capacity inside Mackey Arena — it struck him how it felt like a high school game, as if his son was back in the Trinity League playing for Santa Margarita against JSerra.

One tradition remained constant. After locating his parents high inside the arena, Jake Kyman gave them a pregame eyebrow lift.

“That’s his little sign that he sees us, he knows where we are,” said Michelle Kyman, herself a Bruin as a member of the UCLA women’s volleyball team that won a national championship in 1991.

Complicating Jake’s efforts to find his parents were the various seating locations in differing venues, from Mackey Arena to Hinkle Fieldhouse to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Sometimes his parents just had to yell a little louder or wave a bit more frantically to reveal their spot.

Coley Kyman’s tears might have given it away in the second round against Brigham Young. After Jake made his first three-pointer of the tournament, his father began to cry, overcome by the emotion of the moment.

“All the years of training, all the years of driving, all the years of the sweat and the tears and to see your son shoot a three in March Madness against a higher seed at Hinkle Fieldhouse,” Coley Kyman said, “pinch me.”

After Johnny Juzang returned from his ankle injury to lead all scorers with 27 points during the 73-62 victory, he lingered on the court for postgame interviews. By the time he was done, the already small crowd had dispersed, allowing him to easily find his parents when they unleashed a triumphant scream.

Juzang waved on his way off the court.

“So much support,” Juzang said. “It’s awesome to be able to play in front of family and friends.”

Over the last week, their ranks have swelled. Scores of admirers including his parents, his sister, a cousin, an uncle, a best friend and his father, and his girlfriend’s parents have all stopped by his hotel to say hello before being stopped by those glass doors.

“Fort Knox,” Juzang quipped.

The Kymans have stayed connected with their son mostly via nighttime FaceTimes and morning and postgame text messages that have also involved Jake’s younger brother Brayden and his grandmother Sherri Mauney, who also made the trip here.

More joyful tears were shed when the family walked out of Bankers Life Fieldhouse following the Bruins’ 67-47 romp over Abilene Christian in the second round, securing the team’s first trip to a regional semifinal since 2017.

Most of the parents have returned to Southern California during the five-day break before the 11th-seeded Bruins play second-seeded Alabama on Sunday in a regional semifinal. The Kymans connected through Denver on their way back to John Wayne Airport, delighted that “Hoosiers” was being shown on their flight.

They had already experienced a personal ode to Indiana basketball. On his way off the court Sunday, Jake Kyman winked at his parents.

“It was something I’ll never forget,” Coley Kyman said. “Just the wink of, we’re going to the Sweet 16.”