Many figured Jody Anton would develop into a world-class swimmer during her nine years as a member of Anaheim Aquatics Assn. swim club.
Anton was once ranked as one of the top junior swimmers in the state in the butterfly, breaststroke and freestyle events. She was invited to try out for the U.S. national water polo team as a seventh-grader.
Others thought she would develop into a top athlete in track and field after she finished second in the high jump in the Jesse Owens Games as a youngster. Or that she would become a standout in soccer after being named the most valuable player in a Brea youth soccer league.
Still others assumed that she would follow in the footsteps of her mother, Cathy, a former state amateur golf champion.
But two years ago, Anton, now a 15-year-old freshman at Brea-Olinda High School, decided to hang up the cleats, get out of the pool and put away the golf clubs to concentrate on the sport she loves the most: basketball.
Anton, a 5-foot-10 forward, will start for Brea tonight in the Southern Section 3-A division girls’ championship game. Brea (26-2) will meet Atascadero (20-4) for the title at 5 p.m. in Cal Poly Pomona’s Kellogg Gymnasium.
Anton is the team’s leading rebounder with 8.5 per game and averages 9.5 points per game.
Anton is a product of Brea’s Police Athletic League, where she began playing as a fifth-grader. She played on city championship teams at Fanning Elementary School and was then introduced to Brea Coach Mark Trakh, who was her seventh- and eighth-grade physical education teacher at Brea Junior High.
“I got hooked on basketball in the seventh grade,” she said. “I loved swimming, but I wanted to try something else. I had been involved in an individual sport for so long, and I wanted to try a team sport.
“Coach Trakh taught me how to shoot a jump shot at the end of sixth grade and then I started playing on the school and traveling teams at Brea Junior High. I like the action and the competitiveness in basketball.
“I’ve really enjoyed every sport. I loved swimming . . . the experiences and the travel. I didn’t even mind waking up at five in the morning for the workouts.
“But there is something about playing basketball that the other sports don’t offer. I can remember watching the Ladycats in the fifth grade. I don’t remember any of the players’ names, but I wanted to be like them.”
Anton has set a goal of earning a basketball scholarship to a major college, where she plans to study sports medicine. This week, she met with a counselor at Brea to plan the courses required in the next three years to qualify for a scholarship.
“I have to make some decisions after the season,” she said. “I’m thinking about going out for the track team, or I might play golf. Or, I might just work with weights to improve my vertical leap and quickness for basketball.”
Trakh, who has led Brea-Olinda into the section final five times in the past seven years, said Anton’s strong work ethic has been instrumental in her success.
“Jody’s goal is to play college basketball and get a good education,” he said. “There have always been a lot of expectations for her and she’s handled them well.
“She’s very physically mature for her age and some just assumed she would step right into our program and become a starter. She’s worked very hard. I think as the season progressed, she’s relaxed and is having a lot of fun.”
Fun for Anton is simply being with her teammates. She thinks a big part of Brea’s success is the friendship the players enjoy off the court.
“The highlight is just being with the girls,” she said. “Track and swimming are too much alike. Those are individual sports. I like being part of a team.”
Trakh predicts Anton’s point production will increase in the coming years. He relies on her primarily for rebounding and defensive play inside.
“Jody plays both ends of the court really well,” he said. “She always seems to be where she’s supposed to be and rarely takes a bad shot. She’s a real pleasure to coach.”