Sometime within the next six months, King’s junior Corey Kispert expects to make the biggest decision of his young life — where to attend college and continue his basketball career.
But for now, Kispert will continue to do what he does best, be a kid — a very talented kid.
One week ago, Kispert led the King’s boys basketball team to its second consecutive 1A state championship in an 80-39 win over Freeman. After averaging 23.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game this season, Kispert is The Herald’s All-Area Basketball Player of the Year.
Kispert, a 6-foot-6 guard/forward, has been to the state-title game every year of his high school career, losing to Zillah as a freshman before beating Lynden Christian as a sophomore and Freeman this year.
The Knights defeated Lynden Christian for last year’s championship three weeks to the day after the team was involved a serious bus crash while returning home from a win over the Lyncs in the bi-district championship game. The accident forced all involved to take a closer look at life.
“Everybody that you play with and every game that you play is not small, it’s not insignificant,” Kispert said. “You’ve got to take everything as if it’s your last game. I know it sounds corny and cheesy and I heard that message multiple times before that crash, but I guess it really kind of put that message into perspective for me and it really made it real.
“Last year was really special,” Kispert added. “It was quite different than the average year because of the whole crash incident and to come back from that.”
The Knights lost eight seniors from that team, but never missed a beat this season, finishing with a 24-3 record.
“This year, what was unique about this team was the special group of guys that we were with,” Kispert said. “I’ve said this a lot of times and what I like to say is that every day after school I wasn’t going to go practice, but I was going to go hang out with my buddies for two hours. It created a really close family bond with this team that’s never going to break.”
That bond was on display against Freeman when the Knights built their lead to the point where head coach Rick Skeen was able to get everyone into the game. Kispert, who scored 21 of his 29 points in the first half, had a lot to do with that.
“Some of my best friends on the team are the guys that either had to be managers at the end of the year and didn’t make the playoff roster or the guys that were deep on the bench,” Kispert said. “I really enjoy watching them play and I really enjoy watching them succeed out there.”
Now that the season is over, Kispert has had some time to reflect and can turn some of his attention to his college choice. He expects to make his decision by the end of summer. Gonzaga has shown the most interest, but he’s also being recruited heavily by several Pac-12 schools, including Utah, Oregon State and Stanford. Notre Dame and Virginia also are in the mix.
“Right now, I think those are the five or six schools that I’m leaning to the most and like the most,” Kispert said. “Obviously that can change and can fluctuate, but right now I think that’s where I’m at.”
Whatever school lands Kispert, it won’t be getting just a basketball player. Kispert maintains a 3.98 grade-point average. He plays guitar, is part of a school improv group and plays golf.
“I’m really blessed to have a lot of things in my life that I’m interested in other than basketball to keep my love of the game consistent and fresh,” he said.
Kispert joked that golf allows him to enjoy the sun after being stuck in the gym the past four months.
“Gym rats tend to be pale,” Kispert said. “So I like to get out on the golf course and get my tan going.”
Skeen worries at times that Kispert is doing too much, but said he’s never seen any signs that it’s more than Kispert can handle.
In fact, sometimes Skeen can’t get him to stay away.
“If I ever say midseason on a Friday night ‘We’re not practicing Saturday. I want everyone to take the weekend off. I don’t want any films. I don’t want anyone in the gym. I want you to physically and mentally get rested.’ By 4 o’clock Saturday he’s texting me asking for permission to go to the gym for just one hour.
“He wants to do what he’s told, but he can’t stay away. That’s why he deserves a lot of the credit that he’s getting because he works like no kid I’ve ever seen.”
Skeen has talked to several college coaches interested in having Kispert attend their school and he tells them all the same thing.
“I would just say you would be getting a way better person than you would be a basketball player,” Skeen said. “And that says a lot because he’s a pretty darn good basketball player. I’m convinced that Corey Kispert will get better every year … that’s just who he is. He’s about excellence and he’s about a plan.”
Kispert’s work ethic has earned Skeen’s admiration and respect, but coaches at other schools in the Cascade Conference have marveled at his accomplishments as well.
“He does it within the team structure,” Sultan head coach Nate Trichler said. “He’s not a ‘me’ guy, he’s a ‘we’ guy. It’s very obvious how he plays, so you can’t run any fancy defenses or anything like that on him because he will find the right guy or make the open pass every time.”
That unselfishness continues off the court.
“I know for a fact that every kid in our program loves him,” Trichler added. “He always takes time to talk to them. I know he even follows some of them on Instagram and Facebook and stuff. Even my ‘C’ team kids, he takes the time to talk to them. He’s not too good for anyone. That’s a real special treat to have, especially for someone getting as much attention as he has for his whole high school career.
“He’s still just a person.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.