When Keisha Hampton was in the 10th grade, she received a phone call from her coach, Dave Hargrove. Hargrove told her about another local player who was just like her, Kahleah Copper. And although she was four years younger than Hampton, Copper was young talent who resembled her “tall, black and skinny” competitor.
“[Hargrove] kept telling me about how good she was going to be,” Hampton said. “So, I went out to a practice that she was in one time to see her play, and I was impressed with her because she was really good at a young age.”
Shortly after, they became friends.
“We worked out together all the time, we were always in the gym together. After that, we would go get food or go to basketball games in the city,” Hampton said. “We would eat cheesesteak from Dalessandro’s. That’s what we always used to do.”
Hampton recalled some of their gym time together, and a particular one-on-one game was the first thing to come to mind. Hampton remembered a very specific layup that Copper blocked.
“She blocked my shot so badly that she threw it,” Hampton said, laughing. “I was like wow, this little girl is blocking my shot like this? I [remember thinking] she’s going to be good and she’s really tough.”
However, Copper remembers it differently: “I remember Keish playing me one-on-one, beating me every time and talking trash. That’s all she did, talk trash and beat me every time.”
After Hampton left her home in Philly for college, the two remained friends despite their age difference. Once she finished her career at DePaul in the spring of 2012, Copper entered the college basketball world at Rutgers later that year.
While Copper excelled at Rutgers, Hampton was focused on rehabbing a knee injury before entering a league overseas in Israel. Hampton said their friendship was different sometimes overseas while Copper was still in school, but she would still try to watch Copper’s games.
Not too long after, Hampton and Copper were both officially ready to start their professional careers, and entered their rookie seasons on teams for the 2016 season: Copper was drafted 7th overall to the Washington Mystics, and Hampton signed as an unrestricted free agent to the Minnesota Lynx.
However, after their rookie seasons apart, they were both acquired by the Chicago Sky, and admit that they never would have expected to end up on the same professional team.
Copper, the first to find out she would be playing for the Chicago Sky, said it was crazy to find out that Hampton would be joining her. Hampton felt the same.
“It was crazy because I never thought that we would play on the same team. I’m older than her, and my role to the league has been a little different than hers, so us even being rookies together was kind of crazy too,” Hampton said.
“She became my lil homie.” Hampton added, smiling. “For us to both be second year players here in Chicago, I mean it’s great. I’m happy to be here with her, and I think she makes things a lot easier.”
Basketball took Hampton and Copper from Philly to different teams and countries, but somehow, basketball was the driving force to bring these two friends back together.