There are a lot of different players throughout the years who deify what it means to be a Zag. There are the scrappy team players such as Kevin Pangos and Matt Santangelo. There are the blocks of clay just needing the right artist to unlock the potential, like Kelly Olynyk. There are the unknown foreign imports turned stars, like Przemek Karnowski, Ronny Turiaf, and Rui Hachimura.
Then there are the role players, the guys who do everything that is asked of them, and are as important, if not more important, than the role of the stars. That is Corey Kispert. Into his final year as a Gonzaga Bulldog, the hard-working winger is the veteran of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. He is the face of the preseason No. 1 team, and he represents the work it takes to bring a national championship home. In a long line of very good Gonzaga players, he might be the first one to bring the trophy to Spokane.
You click through the record book and you don’t see Corey Kispert’s name pop up anywhere. He is not in the top 10 in points, rebounds, wins, field goal percentage, etc. His path at Gonzaga has been slow and steady, with a bit more expectations added on each year. Take a look at his progression—pretty much each year, Kispert has gotten better.
After serving as a complementary piece on the Gonzaga squads of his freshman and sophomore year, Kispert was required to take on a bigger role last season. All of the work he had put in throughout the years immediately showed. He developed into an elite outside shooter. His 43.8 percent three-point shot was the 39th-best mark in the nation. His true shooting percentage of 62.1 percent was ranked No. 60 in the nation. He stayed on the court, didn’t commit fouls, and didn’t turn the ball over. All of the things you need from a junior year “veteran” who was the most Gonzaga-experienced member of a team with plenty of new faces, many of whom are keys for this season.
Last year, the game plan was pretty simple: Shove the ball to Filip Petrusev and let him bully the ball into the hoop. Killian Tillie was there to stretch the floor and Kispert was there to provide a bit of offensive firepower for the backcourt.
This season, with all of the pieces in place on Gonzaga’s squad, Kispert is still the face of the team, but the offense doesn’t need to end up in his hands by default as often. The Zags have talented scorers at virtually every position, which means Kispert is going to be able to pick and choose his shot. That doesn’t necessarily mean Kispert is going back to “complimentary piece” status. For all of the hype of Jalen Suggs, Drew Timme, and anyone else, make no mistake, this is Kispert’s team. He is the first preseason first-team AP All-American since Kyle Wiltjer.
Kispert decided against the NBA Draft this year, returning to Gonzaga a championship. He has grown his hair out—clearly a sign of how much business is currently meant. At Kraziness in the Kennel, the first points scored were a beautiful three-pointer from Kispert. Hopefully, that will be the case in early April next year, and we will see Kispert climb the ladder to cut the nets down.