Hepa goes from Alaska to Oregon, back to Alaska
Barrow High School is pursuing a girls' state basketball title. Among the fans watching the Whalers at the Alaska Airlines Center is the school's newest student.
Kamaka Hepa has re-enrolled at Barrow after he spent the last two seasons in Portland, Oregon. The reason for his return is simple.
"I'm going to be attending there until I graduate in May just to be around my friends up there, my family there, be around," Hepa said before the game.
He left Barrow High School for Oregon for more exposure and to improve his chances for a college scholarship. Hepa found it-- along with a different style of basketball from what he knew in Alaska.
"It's a very fast-paced game which I think helped me how I've been playing," said the two-time Alaska Player of the Year.
Hepa played for the Nike-sponsored Portland Basketball Club. He won his first Oregon state title in his junior season at Jefferson High School, after back-to-back championships at Barrow. Jefferson reached the title game this month but failed to repeat.
Since then, reports in Portland questioned Hepa's eligibility, since he lived with his father, while his mother stayed back in Alaska. Oregon rules say an athlete must live with both parents unless they're legally separated or divorced. His parents are together, but Kamaka told us everything was in order.
"We followed all the rules, we went down there to see what we had to do so I would be eligible, and we did that; we got things cleared up early, so that was one of the reasons why I moved down there after my sophomore year. So, as far as I'm concerned, I was completely eligible to play there," Hepa said.
Meanwhile, the Barrow boys prepare for their first-round game in the state tournament. Kamaka Hepa's next front row seat will lead him to a familiar place, back home.
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