It’s been a dream season for Corey Kispert.
The Edmonds native, who led King’s High School to a pair of Class 1A state titles during his decorated prep career, has been one of the faces of men’s college basketball this year.
The Gonzaga University senior forward has helped lead the star-studded Bulldogs to a perfect 26-0 record and was recently named one of five Associated Press first-team All-Americans.
The Zags enter the NCAA Tournament in Indiana as the top overall seed in the 68-team field. With six more wins, they would join rare company and become the sport’s first undefeated national champion since 1976.
Here’s a stat-filled look at Kispert’s progression over the course of his Gonzaga career and the spectacular senior season he’s immersed in:
Kispert is the poster child for player development over the course of a four-year college career. There are numerous stats that illustrate his year-to-year growth at Gonzaga, but the most obvious is his scoring average. He averaged 6.7 and 8.0 points per game in his first two seasons, while serving as a complimentary scoring option behind more experienced stars. As the lone returning starter entering his junior year, Kispert shouldered more of the load and upped his average to 13.9 points per contest. And after flirting with the NBA draft following last season, he returned to Spokane for his senior year and elevated his game to another level. Kispert, now considered a potential top-10 draft pick, has averaged 19.2 points per contest this season and has improved his field-goal percentage from 47.4% as a junior to 54.4% this year.
Kispert was already an above-average 3-point shooter in his first two seasons, when he averaged 35.1% and 37.4% from beyond the arc. But he’s become one of the nation’s elite sharpshooters over the last two years, averaging 43.8% from 3-point range last season and 44.4% this season, which is the fifth-best clip in Division I. Even more impressive: Those strides from beyond the arc came despite the NCAA moving the 3-point line back nearly 17 inches prior to his junior year. Kispert also ranks No. 6 nationally in effective field-goal percentage at 65.6% (a measure of shooting percentage that accounts for 3-pointers being worth more than 2-pointers) and No. 11 in free-throw percentage at 89.8%. “Corey Kispert is a near-perfect shooter,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said during a broadcast last month. “His form, his feet, his ability to hunt shots. … There’s just not a better (college) shooter in America than Corey Kispert.”
THE 20/55/45/90 FRONTIER
No Division I men’s basketball player in at least the last 30 years has averaged at least 20 points per game in a season while shooting at least 55% from the field, 45% from 3-point range and 90% from the foul line, according to ESPN Stats & Info researcher Jared Berson. Kispert is just slightly below each of those four marks. He’s off by a mere 0.8 points per game, 0.6% in field-goal percentage, 0.6% in 3-point field-goal percentage and 0.2% in free-throw percentage. It’d take a massive showing in the NCAA Tournament for Kispert to reach all four marks and pull off the historic feat. But the fact it’s even a slight possibility is incredible in its own right.
ATTACKING THE BASKET
One of the biggest areas of growth for Kispert this season has been his improved ball-handling and increased effectiveness in driving and attacking the rim, both in the halfcourt and in transition. It’s a major reason why his 2-point field-goal percentage has surged from 51.7% last season to 64.6% this season. It’s also a big reason why his transition field-goal percentage has risen from 45.6% to 67.0% over the year, according to Synergy Sports. In addition, it’s helped him draw fouls around the hoop and get to the free-throw line more often. After averaging just 1.3 free-throw attempts per 40 minutes as a sophomore, Kispert increased that rate to 3.1 as a junior and 4.4 as a senior.
RECORD-TYING 3-POINT BARRAGE
Kispert’s biggest game this season was his career-high 32-point performance in a Boxing Day rout of then-No. 16 Virginia. He drained 9 of 13 shots from beyond the arc, tying the Gonzaga program record for made 3-pointers in a game. His red-hot shooting display included back-to-back heat-check daggers early in the second half, when he hit a deep 3-pointer from just inside the midcourt logo and then another just moments later from about 30 feet. Kispert’s long-distance barrage led the Zags to a 98-point output, which marked the first time in nearly seven years that Virginia’s trademark defense had allowed more than 81 points in a non-overtime game.
COMEBACK CATALYST IN VEGAS
Gonzaga’s perfect season was in serious jeopardy last week in Las Vegas. The Zags faced their largest halftime deficit in three years, trailing BYU by 12 points midway through the West Coast Conference title game. Kispert had uncharacterstically struggled in the first half, making just 1 of 5 shots from beyond the arc. But it didn’t take long for him and the Bulldogs to get back on track. During a 93-second spurt in the opening minutes of the second half, Kispert drained three 3-pointers on four possessions to slash the double-digit deficit to three points and spark Gonzaga’s comeback. He also converted a key three-point play in transition later on and finished with 14 second-half points as the Zags rallied to keep their perfect record intact.
WINNING AT A HISTORIC RATE
For all of Kispert’s impressive numbers during his career at Gonzaga, this is undoubtedly the type of stat that matters most to him: The Zags have a 119-10 career record in games he’s played, which equates to a 92.2 win percentage. That’s the highest win percentage of any Division I men’s basketball player over the last 25 years, among players with at least 100 games played. And with six more wins, Kispert and the Zags would etch their name in college basketball lore by completing a perfect 32-0 season and bringing the program’s first-ever national championship back to Spokane.