Former Charlotte Hornets star Bobby Phills’ life ended tragically in a car accident on Tyvola Road in January 2000. The 6-foot-5 Southern University product joined the Hornets in 1997 and was in the third year of a seven-year, $33 million contract starting for Charlotte at small forward and shooting guard. Playing big minutes for the Hornets, he was the fourth-leading scorer on the team, averaging 11 points and three rebounds, when his life tragically ended.
Though Phills’ life was taken far too soon at 30 years old, his legacy is still present on the basketball court today.
Kerstie Phills, the second-year starter at Charlotte Christian and daughter of Bobby Phills, is averaging 19 points per game while pulling down 10 rebounds. She had a career-high 34 points in Christian’s win over SouthLake Christian on Dec. 18 and has continued to put up double-digit scoring performances in 15 out of 16 games this season.
It’s clear where her talent comes from, and even though she was only 1 year old when her father passed, Phills said she can feel his talent running through her veins.
“I’m the daughter of an NBA player,” she said. “How many girls can say that? He’s definitely why I got into basketball. People say I play like him, which is the coolest compliment, and really makes me feel like a superstar. Every time I’m on the court I try to do my best to make him proud.
“He did what he had to do on the basketball court and every time I go out there, I think of him. I’m so proud of him and who he was and the accomplishments that he made. It’s an honor for me.”
Phills’ inherent talent is evident on the Knights’ court, where she leads her team in points, rebounds and blocks.
But it’s not just the talent from her father that’s spurred Phills toward a successful high school career. The budding star comes from a family centered around basketball. Her older brother, Trey, a junior at Christian, leads the boys team averaging 17.4 points per game and 6.6 rebounds and her mother, Kendall, remains an active part of their basketball careers. Phills said that she’s been around the sport since the day she was born, and it’s helped shape her into the person she is today.
“Basketball has made me learn patience, hard work and passion,” she said. “It’s my life. I feel like a new person every time I’m on the court and I like that people look up to me because of it.
“Trey and I, we’re interesting siblings,” she said, laughing. “He’s always encouraging me to do well on the court and I love supporting him and watching him play. He taught me how to be feisty and fight and we’ve both gotten better by playing each other. But there’s definitely some competition there and I think that’s a good thing.”
Phills has helped steer the Knights to an 11-6 start and 2-1 record in the Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association conference play although the team is constructed of nearly all guards. Phills, measuring 5-foot-10 and one of the Knights only inside presences, said they’re overcoming the collective lack of size with passion, aggressiveness and strong defensive play.
“We’re a special group of girls this year,” she said. “We have no bigs, but we’re feisty and we’ll fight to the finish. We’re hardworking and we never give up. We’ve got tons of shooters here with good form and consistency. It’s hard without the height, but we seem to be finding our niche. Our coach (Amanda Naeher) tells us that defense is what we choose to do. It’s our decision whether we want to get back up the court or not. We’re either helping or hurting the team, so that’s what we’ve been focusing on.”
After starting their season with a five-game win streak, the Knights have looked a little shaky at times – dropping two of their last four games to start conference play. Even the usually solid Phills has struggled in a few games, shooting only 30 percent from the floor in the last four contests.
But even with the inconsistency, Phills said she’s confident the Knights will make a run in the playoffs and have big things in store for upcoming years.
After this season they’re losing only two seniors and have experience coming back in Caroline Dennehy (8.4 points), Gerlea Patton (6.6 points) and Meredith Harris (four points), along with a slew of talented underclassmen.
But Phills isn’t just focusing on the future.
“I know we’ll make it to the playoffs this season,” she said. “I just hope we do everything we have to do until then, especially on defense, but we’ll get it together before it’s time for playoffs.
“One of my goals is to win a ring for my team. I know it’s going to be challenging, but we can do it. I want to lead my team in every way possible.”
After a slow start to conference play, Phills and the Knights got back on track with a big 52-36 win over Cannon School on Jan. 21. Shaking off the slump of the last few games, she put up 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds reverting back to her expected performances. And with only four games left in conference play, the Knights will need every bit of Phills’ talent to finish strong.
“I know I have tons of potential and I really try each game and each practice to work as hard as I can for the team,” Phills said. “This team – we’re like a family. Every game I give it my all to do what I have to do for them. I enjoy the pressure because it makes me try my hardest and fight to the finish.”
With two years left in her high school career, Phills is already looking forward to scoring her 1,000th point – she’s nearly halfway there – and taking her career to the collegiate level, where she hopes to receive interest to play Division 1, just like her
“I definitely want to play D-1 basketball,” she said. “I think my dad would be proud of that. It’ll be tough, but I know I can do it. I don’t know whether I’ll want to play professionally or not, but right now I’m focused on
“I’m a lucky girl. I come from a great family and have had great experiences and I’m excited for the rest of my basketball career here.”