Hepa hooks on with the 'Horns
The Alaska Pipeline is open. And the University of Texas tapped into it on Tuesday.
Kamaka Hepa, one of the 49th state's best basketball exports, committed to attend school and play for the Longhorns next fall.
Sometimes it's the program. Sometimes it's the coaches. In Hepa's case it was the latter. His decision came down to Texas and another traditional basketball powerhouse, Gonzaga. Although Austin is another 2,000 miles past Spokane, Hepa decided it's the place for him.
"The determining factor was the relationship I had with the coaching staff," he said by phone. "Obviously the other option I had with Gonzaga is a great program but I really felt comfortable and trusted the coaches at the University of Texas."
Head coach Shaka Smart is in his third season with the Longhorns. Smart rose to prominence coaching at Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond, playing the role of Cinderella in the NCAA Tournament taking the Rams to an unlikely Final Four trip in 2011.
Hepa said that Longhorns assistant coach Darrin Horn also played a significant role during the recruiting process.
Hepa's been a rising star and the apple of many a recruiter's eye for quite some time. Following his sophomore season, he made the decision to move to Portland, Oregon to increase his visibility and play at Jefferson High School. It's a move that worked for West High School's Brandon Huffman who picked up and went to Cary, N.C. Huffman is now a freshman at the University of North Carolina, in nearby Chapel Hill.
Winning has followed Hepa. He led Barrow to a pair of state titles his freshman and sophomore seasons before going to Oregon. He then won another with Jefferson in his junior campaign.
Texas is known first as a football school. But it does have some basketball tradition. Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant attended UT if only for one year.
Hepa had two school visits set up in September but stopped after narrowing it down. He could still shop around. This is a commitment but he's not bound yet. He could still go in a different direction. But don't count on it.
"I feel really solid about my decision." he said. "I do not plan on changing it at all."
If that's the case, Alaskan basketball fans should get ready to follow Big 12 basketball for the next four years because the state will have a representative.