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Updated Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 11:19 AM

Kennedy Hobert makes a name for herself as White River basketball star

By Sandy Ringer
Seattle Times staff reporter

BUCKLEY — The association rarely comes to mind. The dots go unconnected.

After all, Kennedy Hobert has crafted a name for herself on the basketball court. Athletic and explosive, the 5-foot-10 senior is a key reason the White River High School girls are considered contenders for the Class 2A state championship, averaging nearly 25 points the past eight games.

She looks like her mother, Heather Tripp, the two are often told.

So hardly anyone ever asks Kennedy if she's related to that Hobert, the one who left his name written all over Huskies history.

But, yes, Kennedy Hobert is the daughter of Billy Joe Hobert, the former Washington quarterback still considered a hero by some, a villain by others, a little of both to another faction.

They are as close as the distance between them allows, with Billy Joe living in Southern California. They talk regularly, but don't see each other as often as either would like — although he's watched her play at a San Diego tournament each summer and makes occasional visits here.

Father and daughter share a few traits, physically and emotionally, but Kennedy Hobert is clearly an individual with a mind of her own, a hard worker with a soft heart.

The 17-year-old knows few details about her father's legend, the rise or the fall.

"We haven't talked about it, really," Kennedy said. "It will come up occasionally and he'll just say the information wasn't correct."

Much has been said and written about how the former Rose Bowl MVP lost his college eligibility. And, as part of a phone interview for this story, Billy Joe said few know the truth.

"I'll bet there's less than 10 people on this planet with actual knowledge of what happened," he said, but also acknowledged he "made a ton of mistakes" when he was younger.

It was during the 1992 season, after Hobert led the Huskies to a share of the national championship and that Rose Bowl victory, that his problems came to light. A Seattle Times investigation revealed he received a $50,000 loan from an Idaho businessman that violated NCAA rules, and he was quickly deemed ineligible.

Ultimately, Washington's sanctions included a two-year bowl ban, prompting legendary coach Don James to resign in protest.

The Huskies never lost a game with Hobert at quarterback, and one trait Kennedy inherited is his competitive nature.

"Clearly, that must come from him, her competitiveness," said her mother Heather, noting her lack of it.

Look closely, and you might see a similarity to Billy Joe's forehead and lips, she and Kennedy agree. Inside, though, there's little to compare with anyone.

"She's her own person," Heather said.

Heather and Billy Joe, high-school sweethearts a grade apart, married in 1990, shortly after she graduated from Puyallup High School, where Billy Joe had led his team to the Class 4A state football championship as a junior. She was pregnant with Taylor, their first daughter, during the Huskies scandal.

When Kennedy was born in 1995, her parents were separated. By then, Billy Joe was a backup quarterback with the Oakland Raiders, who had selected him in the third round of the 1993 NFL draft.

Kennedy has vague memories of going to one of his games when she was 4 or 5.

"I just remember him warming up," Kennedy said. "I had binoculars and my grandma was pointing him out to me."

Billy Joe's NFL career ended in 2001 and he briefly moved back to Puyallup with his second wife, Danielle, and their three children. But he didn't want those younger children growing up in the shadow of his past, so moved the family to Southern California.

He said leaving Taylor and Kennedy again was one of the hardest decisions he ever made, but knew they were in "fantastic hands" with Heather — who is now married to Rick Tripp, the White River boys basketball coach.

Had Billy Joe stayed, he said he would worry about them dealing with the stigma of their dad being Billy Joe Hobert, and what that represented.

"Kennedy has grown up and made her mark outside and separate of anything I have ever done, which is exactly what I wanted for her," he said. "If I'd have been there, everybody would have known that she was my daughter and she may not have been able to do and accomplish the things she's accomplished."

In California, he got involved training, mentoring and tutoring young student-athletes through an organization called Prodigy Athletes, and still donates his time when physically able (he had back surgery two months ago).

Taylor and Kennedy spent summers with him when they were young, and Kennedy especially thrived during training sessions with him.

"She's as hardworking as any kid I've worked with down here," Billy Joe said.

He was disappointed when she gave up soccer to concentrate on basketball in eighth grade.

Kennedy was a gifted soccer defender — but that was part of the problem. The sport came too easily for her.

"I wanted a challenge, and basketball was a big challenge for me," she said.

Kennedy, who has a 3.8 grade-point average, played varsity as a freshman and recently became only the fourth player in the history of White River girls basketball to score 1,000 career points. When she recently went off for a career-high 39, Billy Joe got regular text updates from family members in the stands.

His pride is evident when he speaks of her, not for her athleticism or accomplishments, but for the kind of person she is.

"She's got a good heart," he said.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com


DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Kennedy Hobert (44) drives through Sumner defenders. The 5-foot-10 senior is only the fourth White River girls player to score 1,000 career points.




COURTESY HOBERT FAMILY
Kennedy Hobert inherited her competitive spirit from her dad, Billy Joe.




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