Column: Ontario Colony’s Brenton Knapper takes aim at college basketball
High school basketball in California has been shut down for nearly 11 months because of coronavirus restrictions, which means standout point guard Brenton Knapper of Ontario Colony High continues to fight adversity the only way his parents taught him to — with absolute determination and a focus to find ways to keep getting better.
He practices shots on a basket in his driveway. He practices shots on a court in the park across the street from his home. He runs two miles around the park most days. His father, Sean, and mother, Nicole, were both star athletes in Ontario and later became coaches. His oldest brother, Brandon, plays for Eastern Kentucky. His younger brother, 10-year-old Bryson, gives him competition playing video games every weekend.
Nothing is preventing Knapper from preparing for the day he’ll enroll this fall at Santa Clara University to begin his college basketball career.
“At first, it was hard getting used to quarantine and staying away from people,” he said. “But it helped me focus more on basketball and my education. It helped me be with my family and do what I needed to do.”
The Knappers are using their experiences as educators and parents to help their sons keep plugging away while waiting for the day life returns to a semblance of normalcy. From 2004 until Brenton entered Colony in 2017, home was Charleston, W.Va., where there was fishing, basketball and less traffic. Dad is in the Chaffey College Hall of Fame for his guard skills. Mom was a star point guard at Ontario High.
“I can understand why they fell in love with basketball,” Sean said of his sons.
Before COVID-19, the 6-foot Brenton would meet up with his friends at gyms and hardly see his parents or younger brother between school and practice.
“We had to change up,” Sean said.
“Now I’m around them 24/7,” Brenton said.
They bought weights to use in the garage. Working out has become second nature, along with setting up laptops in the house for schoolwork.
“You try not to push,” Sean said. “Sometimes you don’t have to say, ‘Are you staying in shape? Did you get any shots up?’ They have a routine.”
Coach Jerry De Fabiis of Colony is not surprised with Knapper’s dedication. He has been a starter since his freshman season. He averaged 18.1 points as a sophomore and 15.7 points as a junior when he missed 15 games because of an injury.
“I think his biggest strength is he’s driven,” De Fabiis said. “He has an all-around game. He’s crazy athletic for how small he is. There’s kids who do one or two things well. He does everything.”
With coronavirus restrictions, the Knapper family has been getting to know one another a lot better. Brenton drags Bryson along to run at the park on occasion.
“Being around my family a lot before I go to college, I love being able to play with my little brother,” he said.
There is one family rule. Neither brother gets to play video games until the weekend. Then the competition begins.
“It’s my turn! You’ve been on it for three hours!” is how the brotherly love goes.
De Fabiis remembers a game when Bryson came into the huddle during a timeout several years ago.
“Bryson jumped on his brother’s shoulders to look in and tried to hand me some popcorn,” he said laughing.
There’s still an ongoing debate in the house regarding who was the best shooter — mom or dad.
“She’ll say she was best,” Sean said of his wife. “I could shoot pretty good.”
Now it’s Brenton’s turn to rise to the top in the Knapper hierarchy, pandemic or not.
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