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Bittersweet season for Brothern
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Keyasha Brothern couldn't wait to leave California and play basketball for Lin Laursen and Central Arizona Community College. Laursen has won more than 800 games, two national championships, been to the Final Four seven times and claimed 24 conference titles at the junior-college level.

"She's a great coach," Brothern said. "It's a great school."

Brothern didn't have a merry time. The 2003 Ceres High graduate considered quitting the team, dropping out of school and returning home after finding out her mother, Gwen, was ill.

"When I first came here, she was okay," Brothern said. "Then I got a call in September and they said do you want us to put your mother on life support.

"As the season went on, it got a lot harder to stay focused. I considered quitting more than once when I was alone in my room."

Many other teenagers would have quit. Not Brothern. She didn't want to let her mother and former coaches down. Shawna Nunes and Phil de la Porte provided a lot of support.

"I knew my mom didn't want me to quit," said Brothern, who flew home twice during the season to spend time with her family.

Brothern persevered and helped lead Central Arizona to a third-place finish in a field of 16 at the 2004 National Junior College Athletic Association Division I National Championships at the Bicentennial in Salina, Kan., on March 20. The 19th-ranked/12th-seeded Vaqueras won three of four games en route to finishing the year with an impressive 33-3 record.

"It was bittersweet," Brothern said. "I didn't really have a good year."

Brothern played in 33 of 36 games. The 5-foot-11 small forward averaged 7.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and shot 50 percent from the field (87-for-174).

"She came off the bench and gave us minutes wherever we needed it," Laursen said.

Brothern practiced and played with first-team, all-Arizona Community College Athletic Conference and all-NJCAA tournament selections Rashidat Sadiq and Shaquina Mosley. Sadiq, a 6-foot-2 forward, is being recruited by more than 40 division I colleges, including Connecticut and Tennessee.

"Our practices were deadly," Brothern said. "I definitely feel that made me a better player."

Brothern plans to work extra hard during the summer.

"Next year is my money year," Brothern said. "There is no second chances.

"I need to be on top of my game and then some."

Brothern will contribute more next year. She'll log time at small and power forward.

"Her body is strong," Laursen said. "She's big. She can do a lot of things for us.

"She's got a lot of talent."

Brothern wants to transfer to a four-year college.

"There's a lot of great opportunities for people who come out of Central Arizona College," Brothern said.

"I know I want to go to a Division I university."

Brothern is eagerly awaiting summer vacation. The sports medicine major has a month of school left.

"I can't wait to get out of here," she said. "I just really want to go home and be with my mom."

Brothern isn't the first Ceres High graduate to suit up for Central Arizona.

Reshundra Smiley played for the Vaqueras for two years (2001-2003). The 2001 Ceres High grad led Central Arizona to a seventh-place finish in the nation during her sophomore year. She earned all-league and all-region honors as a freshman.

- By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier