Rich history of basketball – Childhood friends end high school careers together
Bear River’s Karli Kephart and Forest Lake Christian’s Brooke Hodges have dreamt of playing high school basketball together since they were in fifth grade. So it’s only fitting that the dream comes true to end their high school careers as both players were selected to the 2005 Sacramento Area Optimist basketball game.
The basketball history between the two standout players began in third grade. Kephart remembers Hodges as one of her biggest rivals in the Bear River Parks and Recreation League.
Two years later, Hodges’ father, Rob, began to hear about AAU basketball and decided to put together an AAU team of his own. Rob chose eight girls from the six teams in the Rec League and immediately thought to ask Kephart to join.
“It’s pretty hard to tell how good players are when they are only in fourth grade, but you could tell that Karli was one of the better players in the league,” Rob said.
He also recruited Kephart’s dad, Dave, to join him as an assistant coach.
Nearly eight years have passed since the team was formed and only Kephart and Hodges still remain from that original squad. That time has allowed the two players to become even closer each year, making them the good friends they are today.
During the high school season, neither had much a chance to see the other play much until playoff season, but that didn’t mean they weren’t dialed in to the status of one another’s teams.
“I really respect her,” Kephart said. “We were both kind of in the same positions on our teams (senior captains) and it was nice to be able to talk about various matters together.”
At one point, after their sophomore year, Hodges contemplated transferring to Bear River and spent the summer playing with Kephart and her Bruins. In the end, Hodges decided to stay at Forest Lake Christian, but she still wishes she and Kephart would have gotten to play school ball together – commenting wistfully on “how fun” it would have been.
“I know that Brooke always looked forward to AAU ball because she missed Karli during the high school season,” Rob said. “I remember this year Bear River was playing before Forest Lake Christian at the Sacramento Challenge and they ran up to each other and within minutes they were laughing so hard they had to sit down.”
Next year Hodges, a first-team all-city selection and Central Valley Christian League MVP, will attend Vanguard University in Costa Mesa on a basketball scholarship while Kephart will attend the University of California, Irvine, just 10 minutes down the road.
Hodges has finally given up on trying to recruit Kephart to tryout for the Vanguard team and attend school with her, but is happy knowing that her long-time friend will be in the stands to support her.
“It was really tempting to play with Brooke in college, but I think I am a little burnt out at this point,” Kephart said. “I am satisfied ending my career where it is right now.”
And for Kephart, that ending is at 6 p.m. Saturday at Natomas High School with the Optimist game. Kephart and Hodges will be joined on the North Squad by Julie Fry, a teammate of Kephart’s at Bear River and an on-and-off again AAU teammate of Hodges and Kephart.
“It’s going to be really fun to be able to play with some of the best girls in the area,” Hodges said. “And of course play my last time in high school with Karli.”
2005 Optimist Basketball Game
Where: Natomas High School
When: Saturday, April 9th at 6 p.m.
Who: Julie Fry (Bear River), Karli Kephart (Bear River) and Brooke Hodges (Forest Lake Christian)
Tickets: $8 or $5 for 12 and under
Fun Facts: The three local girls will play on the North Squad, coached by Placer High School coach Tony Camillucci. Fifteen Sacramento Area girls were chosen for the North squad and 15 for the South Squad, which will be coached by Harvey Tahara of McClatchy High School.
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