The injury is a major blow to the Knights’ quest for a third straight Class 1A state title.
Corey Kispert hopes to help King’s High School capture a third straight Class 1A state boys basketball championship next month in Yakima.
Even though he won’t play a minute.
Kispert, a 6-foot-7 senior who has signed with Gonzaga and was recently named the Class 1A state player of the year, is sidelined with a broken bone in his right foot that required surgery on Feb. 10.
He has taken on a different role — fan, cheerleader, assistant coach — as the Knights (20-5) managed to win three loser-out games (including a 68-57 victory over Mount Baker on Saturday night) to clinch a return trip to the SunDome.
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They play The Northwest School in a regional seeding game Saturday at 6 p.m. at Mountlake Terrace, with both guaranteed state berths after finishing among the top eight in the WIAA’s new Rating Percentage Index (RPI) system. King’s is No. 4 and The Northwest School No. 5.
No one has more faith in the Knights’ chances than Kispert, the MVP of last year’s state tournament who was averaging about 25 points per game this season.
“We have plenty of talent to beat anybody in the state,” he said. “Will it be more of a challenge? Yes. But also will it be much more of a fond memory and will it be that much greater of a story and will it be more unique to this group especially? For sure. These guys deserve it. They’ve worked so hard to get to this point and from what I’ve seen they have a firm belief they can do it for a third straight year.”
Kispert said he first felt some discomfort in his foot while the team was playing in an Arizona tournament in late December. He played one game in early January before seeing a doctor and was told he needed to sit out for a few weeks with a stress fracture.
He returned for brief stint on senior night on Jan. 27, then felt a pop in each foot while driving to the basket during the Feb. 1 game against Archbishop Murphy.
Tests the following day revealed a “Jones fracture” — a fracture in the fifth metatarsal — in the right foot. That same day, Kispert told coach Rick Skeen he wanted to address his teammates at practice.
“He walked in with crutches on and a boot on and looked them in the eye and said, ‘I’m not going to get to play with you guys anymore, but I’m going to do everything else I can,’ ” Skeen recalled. “ ‘I’m going to be your biggest fan, you’re biggest cheerleader, the best assistant coach I can be and I believe the goal is the same. I believe you can win a state title without me and I’m sad I can’t be there to be a part of it. But the goal doesn’t change, the mission doesn’t change.’ ”
Kispert, who is expecting a full recovery by summer, has lived up to those words.
“I have a tremendous coaching staff, but he has become an unbelievable assistant coach — passionate, involved, encouraging, coaching, talking,” Skeen said. “He is all over the floor on those crutches getting our kids ready to play each game.”
Multiple players have elevated their games to help pick up the scoring slack, according to the coach, but senior Dawson Percello has been key since joining the starting lineup, averaging 18 points per game — nearly triple his production as the sixth man. He scored 25 against Mount Baker on Saturday.