There are few people who can draw interest with just the mere mention of their name quite like Brandon Kephart can and that is because there are plenty of people who can still remember Kephart’s dominance in the annual Shortgrass basketball tournaments when he was still just a player for the Lawton MacArthur Highlanders.
But his days of playing for the opposing team are long behind him and now he will be sporting a different and much more familiar look come basketball season when he slips on the Bulldog blue and sets out to change the culture of basketball at Altus High School.
After the resignation of Nathan Pennypacker, it took almost no time for Kephart to decide that Altus is where he wanted to be. There is a lot of tradition where the Bulldog basketball program is concerned and nobody knows it better than those who played against the Bulldogs when Clester Harrington was still the head coach of the team.
Likewise, many remember the high school phenom Kephart was, especially considering that he is still MacArthur’s all-time leading scorer despite graduating from the school over 15 years ago.
“As of right now I’m still the leading scorer but they have a really good freshman coming up named Seth, I think he played quite a bit last year,” Kephart said. “So as of now it’s still there and I hope that stands. It was kinda neat because I played Kevin Harrington and I think he’s still the all-time scoring leader here at Altus and he had to play without the three-point line so for him to still hold that record is really impressive.”
Kephart’s high school career led him to Cameron University where he played basketball for two years before transferring to Oklahoma Christian University where he played a final two years of college basketball before he moved on to play elsewhere.
“I played overseas for a few seasons in the Philippines, England, then it was Spain, and my last year I played for the Arkansas Aeros for Bob Hoffman. He recruited me at OBU and Pan America when I transferred. I played with a lot of good players. That last year my knee got hurt a little bit, kinda got banged up, so I came back here and met my wife and we got engaged and I decided I needed something else,” Kephart said. “I got my masters and started teaching. My first year was at a middle school in Lawton and then the next year Kevin hired me. I coached five years with him before we went to Cache and we were there for two seasons and last year we were in Edmond at Memorial and then this job opened up.”
For Kephart, running the Altus Bulldogs basketball program was ideal. He was leaving a city where there were three high schools and he was coming to a place where there was just one. He loved the way the community supported the Bulldogs no matter what and he wanted to be a part of that community.
“We’re excited, I don’t think we can be any more excited. One of the biggest things for me that I remember when I was in high school and came here was that the gym was packed. The tradition is here and I feel like the athletes are here and I feel like it’s a great opportunity to come in and build it back up to what it was,” Kephart said. “Anyone who replaces Clester or even Kevin over at MacArthur, to fill those shoes is pretty hard. There has been a gap but you see Clester’s name on the court, that tradition is still here. The community really supports their programs. You can tell with the football team, they’re really behind that football team, it is awesome and I love it.”
“It’s a neat spot to be because everybody wants to win but I think they’re going to be patient and know we’re going to build something and work on it. It’s just a great time to be here, I really like the coaches that are here. It’s just a neat town and school system. I’ve been in Lawton and I’ve been in Edmond where there are multiple schools and this is a one-school town which is a really neat situation,” he added.
By now, Kephart has had a chance to meet with his team and watch his players compete and he now has a feel for what each player can do with the ball in their hands, but Kephart knows that the culture of this team will not be changed overnight.
“This summer was really eye opening because we got to see the guys and it was not about wins, it was about me trying to implement my own offense and defense. I want us to really be fundamentally sound offensively, really move the ball and be more fluid which is how everything is going now,” Kephart said. “Push the ball, if you don’t have anything when you set it up then we want to push it and really make our name on defense. Nothing easy. We don’t want anything flashy. It’d be nice if we get a dunk, but I think it’s mainly just put in the work and try to get better every day. I don’t think it’s going to come back all in one year.”
Even though Kephart is building from the ground up in an attempt to reboot the Bulldog basketball program, he really likes the players he will be putting on the court. There are plenty of returning players like Carson Pickett, Davyjon Ford, Keegan Shive, and others that he will be able to use to the best of the team’s advantage and that has Kephart excited about the possibilities.
“I think it’s really exciting because there are some really good athletes. Anytime we open the gym, the kids are in the gym so that’s always good because they’re hungry and ready to play,” Kephart said. “I also think it’s exciting that a lot of them are sophomores and juniors. Every time we’ve had open gym, there are 12-15 kids who show up to play and anytime you have that many kids showing up to play, I think it’s really exciting. You got Carson, Davyjon, Hunter [Webb], Keegan, and a lot of pieces with a lot of athletic ability but not a lot of basketball knowledge so there is a lot of work to do. That is why I’m excited for school to start because we can get a lot of work in the hour that we have. They’re good kids.”
Kephart came to Altus with a plan to make the Bulldogs contenders again, but what he has experienced from this town and the people in it has made his plan for a long career as the Bulldog’s head coach.
“We have fallen in love with this community. My wife and I and my daughter, we love it here so far. It’s just a nice town. I hope it is a long term spot, that is what we would like it to be,” Kephart said. “It feels very much like home and we haven’t even been here that long.”
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.