Hook ’em Horns: Hepa commits to Texas, cites trust in coaches

November 3, 2017

Kamaka Hepa basketball

Kamaka Hepa

When most people think of Texas they think of football, but a tall teen from the Arctic Slope hopes to change that perception.

Four-star national recruit Kamaka Hepa of Barrow has committed to the University of Texas with hopes of getting the Big 12 team back to prominence under coach Shaka Smart.

The 6-foot-9 forward is entering his senior year and second season at Jefferson High in Portland, Oregon, after transferring from Barrow High after his sophomore year.

Hepa has won three state championships – a 6A title with Jefferson last season and two 3A championships with Barrow as an underclassman.

He also spent the last two summers playing in the famed Nike EYBL with the Portland Basketball Club.

In terms of national rankings, he is No. 44 by Scout, No. 50 by 247Sports and No. 62 by ESPN.

Hepa picked Texas over other offers from Gonzaga, Miami, Oklahoma and virtually every Pac-12 school.

“For me, it was not only the relationship that I had, but also that my family had with coach Smart and the rest of the staff as well as going on the trip to Austin,” he told scout.com.

“I had a great time, bonded with the players and I really liked the environment. So those were some of the key things and I know a lot of people don’t see the fit of me going there but after talking with coach Smart and coach [Darrin] Horn I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that I could go down there and affect that program.”

Texas advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 2003 and the Elite Eight in 2006 and 2008.

But since then the Longhorns have collected only three NCAA Tournament wins and missed the big dance all together last season.

Hepa is part of a promising recruiting class aimed at getting Texas back on track under Smart, who was hired two years ago after turning underdog VCU into a Cinderella in 2011 with a Final Four run.

“I feel like he cares about his players and that’s something really important and something that I was looking for in a program,” he said.