BY JEFF FALK
ASSUMPTION HILL – Family values. A pursuit of excellence. Nurturing tendencies.
Whether it be by nature or nurture, Becky Kleinfelter and Patti Hower share the same things that all daughters and mothers do. But now they have something in common that no other mother and daughter has ever had.
On Monday, November 11th at 6:30 p.m. at the Lebanon Rodeway Inn/Clarion Hotel, when Kleinfelter is inducted into the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, she and Hower will become the first daughter-mother pair to ever receive that honor. Kleinfelter, the former Becky Hower and Lebanon County’s all-time leading scorer in basketball, enjoyed a spectacular career at Lebanon Catholic, while being coached by her mother, Hower, and before matriculating to Division One Rider University.
It is fitting that Hower will serve as Kleinfelter’s escort that evening.
Kleinfelter heads a star-studded 2019 class that will be inducted into the local sports hall of fame that night, one that includes former Miami Dolphin and Jacksonville Jaguar Jared Odrick, local racing legend Bobby Gerhart, Cocalico head football coach Dave Gingrich, one-time Lebanon High and Lebanon Valley College multi-sport star Adam Brossman, current assistant Lebanon Valley College athletic director Stacy Hollinger and former professional baseball player Justin Hileman. In addition, recent Elco graduate Ryelle Shuey and recent Cedar Crest graduate Logan Horn will be presented their C.S. ‘Pop’ Kelchner awards for excellence in scholastic athletics at the ceremony.
“Are there any father-son pairs who have been inducted? Are there any other females who are related in it?,” said Kleinfelter. “It’s amazing. I look up to my mom. She’s done some amazing things. We’re being inducted under two totally different platforms. I wouldn’t have been a great player without my mom, or my dad (Lonnie).
“My mom was always my coach,” continued Kleinfelter. “It was all I knew. Now that I’m older, my mom and I are best friends. It’s just a bond we have. On the court, she was my coach. On the bench, she was my coach. But when we got home, she was my mom. She did all the nurturing things moms do. She always wanted the best for me.”
“I think it’s a pretty great accomplishment,” said Hower. “We have a great athletic family. I’m proud that we’re the first mother-daughter combination to be inducted. I’m excited and thrilled.
“I am very proud of her, but she’s worked very hard and accomplished a lot,” Hower continued. “That was through her hard work. I’m proud of how fine a young woman she has become. She has continued to put forth great effort, no matter what it is.”
During her four-year career as the Beavers’ point guard from 1997-2001, Kleinfelter scored 2,445 points in 119 career games, dished out 601 assists, nailed 226 three-pointers, hauled down 1,017 rebounds and made 75 percent of her free throws. The Howers’ Lebanon Catholic teams captured three District Three Class A championships and advanced to four state tournaments.
At Rider, Kleinfelter played in 113 career games and averaged 13 points per outing, made 218 three-point field goals, handed out 318 assists and shot 82 percent from the charity stripe. She was named Rider’s team captain twice and the squad’s most valuable player twice.
“I was kind of shocked to find out, because it’s nothing you plan for,” said Kleinfelter of being notified of her induction. “It’s never on your radar. It was a nice phone call to get.
“I remember the amazing friendships,” added Kleinfelter. “The girls I played basketball with in high school are still my best friends. We formed bounds that I don’t think will ever be broken. We won districts and played in state games, and those games really stick out. But it all goes back to the bonds.”
“Becky’s very low key,” said Hower, who with a career record of 744-382 is Lebanon County’s winningest coach in any sport at any level. “She’s not about recognition. But I think she deserves it. She didn’t say a whole lot when she was notified of the induction. I was probably more excited than she was.
“We did have a good relationship as a coach and a player,” Hower added. “Just like any point guard I’ve had, she was an extension of me as a coach on the floor. She really understands the game and she was such an outstanding player. She scored, but she was also a distributor.”
Kleinfelter quite literally grew up around the game. She served as the ball girl for Lebanon Catholic’s 1992 and 1995 state championship teams.
“My first coach was Shannon Brandt at the Y (Lebanon YMCA),” said Kleinfelther. “Jenna Ulrich and I were on a team together, I remember that. Jenna and I have been playing basketball together since I was five years old. We played together so long we have that sixth sense together. We know where each other is going to be before we get there. My dad put up a basket in our basement and we’d play basketball there. My dad attributes that for my shot being so good.
“She (Hower) builds relationships with players,” Kleinfelter continued. “They trust her, and she trusts them. If she asked them to run through a wall, they’d look at her like she’s crazy, but they’d do it. You don’t see that confidence much any more. It’s always been a family affair for us, and the girls on the team are part of our family.”
“She was around the game ever since she could be the ball girl,” said Hower. “I think that had a lot to do with her being a good player. She was at practice everyday. The first thing I remember was her playing CYO basketbal in the fourth grade. In fifth grade, the CYO coach wanted her to be a starter on the eighth grade team. She cried because she wanted to be with her friends. That was the first indication that, yeah, she’s going to be alright.
“I remember her competitive spirit, her determination,” continued Hower. “It comes back to understanding the game. That always stood out. She isn’t physically imposing, but she had outstanding outstanding high school and college careers.”
After graduating from Rider in 2005, Kleinfelter joined her mom on the Lebanon Catholic girls’ basketball bench, a place she’s been ever since. Kleinfelter has also been an elementary teacher in the Elco school district over the past 15 years.
“It just happened,” said Kleinfelter of her position as a Beaver assistant. “I had a hard time transitioning from the player role to the coaching role. It was just like, ‘OK, I’ll come out and help.’ But it was hard not to be a player. I had to learn how to explain things, because to me, a lot of things came naturally. I had to take a step back and that was hard.
“It’s coming full circle for me now,” Kleinfelter added. “My parents are amazing because they gave me every opportunity possible. My mom is in the spotlight, but my dad was in the background. I had a really good upbringing and I hope my girls (Mya, 8, and Ashlynn, 5) feel the same way. I never thought I’d have the excitement of playing again, but I do. Now that my girls are playing sports, it’s so exciting to me.”
“It’s not that I expected that of her,” said Hower of Kleinfelter’s role as an assistant coach. “It was just understood. It’s just nice to have a young coach who is able to relate to the players. Obviously she has the basketball knowledge.
“Those four years (of Kleinfelter’s playing career) went so quickly,” concluded Hower. “People always ask me which was my best team. But that was my best time as a coach.”
The annual induction banquet for the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame is open to the public. Tickets for the event, which are priced at $25, can be obtained by contacting Carol Frankhouser at 717-813-3446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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