Column: The rise of Girl Dads in Southland includes former pro stars
Harold Miner, star basketball player at Inglewood High and USC as well as a two-time NBA dunk champion, went into worship mode when discussing his daughter, Kami, a high school volleyball All-American from Redondo Union who is headed to Stanford.
“When she was 9, she was doing 30-inch box jumps,” he said. “She’s so quick and strong and athletic.”
Then came the obvious question: Is she jumping higher than you?
“She’s getting there,” he said with a prideful laugh. “She has the same explosiveness that I had.”
Welcome to the era of the Girl Dad, where fathers who were once successful athletes are going all-in trying to help their daughters achieve similar success.
“I think it’s awesome,” Kami said. “It’s incredible to learn from someone who has been to the highest place of athletics and where we want to be.”
In Southern California, home to legendary former pro athletes, these next few years could see the rise of the daughters.
At Long Beach Poly, the standout girls’ volleyball player headed to USC is Riley McGinest, daughter of former All-Pro and USC linebacker Willie McGinest.
At Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, freshmen girls’ basketball players Izela Arenas and MacKenly Randolph are the daughters of former NBA players Gilbert Arenas and Zach Randolph.
In Brentwood, Golden State Warriors assistant coach Jarron Collins has daughters ages 12 and 10. Considering he’s 6 feet 10 and they’re already 5-9 and 5-4, travel basketball opponents beware.
“They enjoy playing basketball, they enjoy watching and talking about the game and following the careers of WNBA and NBA players,” Collins said. “They’re definitely fans and have a passion for it.”
The origin of Girl Dad comes from an ESPN interview with Kobe Bryant, who called himself a “Girl Dad” before his fourth daughter was born. Then came his death with teen daughter and promising basketball player Gianna in a helicopter accident Jan. 26. Now others are trying to pick up the torch of the dad-daughter sports connection.
“It hurt my entire family when he passed away,” Kami said. “It was great to see the media focus on how he was as a father and that these athletes are trying to pass on what they learned to their children.”
Randolph, who also has a 7-year-old son, said training boys and girls is different.
“I went to Michigan State under coach Tom Izzo,’’ he said. “He was a dog. Just hard. The boys you can be a little rough with. The girls, they have you wrapped around your finger. The girls look at you, ‘Dad, I’m trying.’ You have a special spot for the girls.”
MacKenly, who’s 5-11, said she has beaten her father three times in games of one-on-one. “He doesn’t play any defense,” she said.
She appreciates her father taking time to teach her lessons in the gym but reminds him she wants him to be her father, not just a coach. “He always tries to go extra hard,” she said.
Sierra Canyon has already experienced the boys’ version of famous fathers in the stands rooting on their sons with LeBron James, Scottie Pippen and Kenyon Martin. The girls’ games are about to be super-charged with daughters of Arenas and Randolph.
“It’s a great feeling,” Randolph said. “Girl Dad, oh man. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Collins and his twin brother, Jason, were standout basketball players at Studio City Harvard-Westlake, Stanford and in the NBA. Now he’s preparing to help his daughters see where sports can take them.
“My baby girls are not quite high school age, sixth and fourth grade,” he said. “They’re beautiful young ladies. They are starting their journey in basketball. I hope to get them into volleyball at some point. I want my girls to have an outlet. I want them to pursue their passions and be successful in the classroom and any activities they pursue. It’s my job as a father to encourage, support and foster their ambitions and their goals and passions. It’s a beautiful thing to see in your children.”
In the 1992 NBA draft, Miner went No. 12 to the Miami Heat and Adam Keefe went No. 10 to the Atlanta Hawks. They played against each other in college, while at USC and Stanford, and were both Southern California standouts for Inglewood and Irvine Woodbridge. And now they are both Girl Dads in helping their daughters excel in sports.
Keefe’s two eldest daugthers, twins Caitlin and Michaela, won three NCAA women’s volleyball titles playing for Stanford. And his youngest, Kerry, is a junior volleyball player at Los Angeles Marymount committed to Duke. He also has a son, James, who plays basketball for Stanford. His wife, Kristin, was an Olympian and All-American volleyball player at Stanford.
“When they were growing up, just seeing their mom and dad throwing a football in the yard, playing hoops or playing volleyball was a normal way of life,” Keefe said.
Keefe coached all the girls in basketball until seventh grade, when they stopped. He was also a CIF player of the year in volleyball and starter on a Stanford volleyball team that played for the NCAA championship, but his youngest never knew that until a conversation at the dinner table.
“What are you talking about?” Kerry said.
“She literally had no idea I played two sports,” Keefe said.
Added Kerry: “I heard so many people talk about his basketball career and never knew he was on the volleyball team.”
Keefe made sure he and his wife gave equal attention to each of his four children even though there were constant games and workouts. He didn’t want to just focus on James, the basketball player.
“Divide and conquer,” he said. “Changing up. Let them see both parents are involved in caring and supportive.”
Said Kerry: “It’s amazing how my parents have done it. Four kids is a lot. Every weekend there was a tournament or game. It helped my sisters played on the same team.”
While Kristin was the primary volleyball teacher, Adam offered his daughters tips and mental advice.
Kerry still marvels at how people notice him from his playing days.
“I’ll be walking around with him, ‘Oh, my gosh, are you Adam Keefe?’ It’s funny how they think of him. He’s my dad. The world knows a completely other side.”
Some former NBA players will need body guards watching their daughters play. Shaquille O’Neal, the No. 1 pick in the 1992 NBA draft, has a teenage daughter, 13-year-old Me’arah, who figures to be one of the best in the nation based on her early basketball potential. She’s 6-3 and being home-schooled in Houston.
Jeff Suppan, the 2006 National League Championship Series MVP when he was pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals, is now helping his 11-year-old daughter, Finley, a softball pitcher.
“We work well together,” he said. “We have a similar temperament. Girls are good listeners. I coach [at a] mellow pace. I try not to talk a lot. I try to show her. I remember when I was little, my brother would shout, ‘Just throw strikes.’ What do you think I’m trying to do? I’ve learned so much about underhand pitching.”
Kami Miner is the premier girls’ volleyball player in California and perhaps a future Olympian. Harold Miner hopes the trend started by Kobe Bryant to focus on girl athletes continues.
“Hearing about Kobe and the relationship he had with his daughters, it gave some visibility to girls sports and hopefully that trend continues,” he said. “There’s a lot of girl athletes come of age. They deserve it. They train as hard as the boys.”
Last season, when Redondo Union played Marymount in volleyball, it was Miner vs. Keefe again, only with the daughters in the spotlight. What would have happened if the dads had played one-on-one between matches?
“I think a lot of orthopedic surgeons would love it,” Adam said.
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