In a year of ambiguity and uncertainty, one thing that will be certain this Gonzaga basketball season is that senior forward Corey Kispert will be back for his final year at GU.
After having his season cut short last year after the NCAA announced the cancellation of the 2019-20 NCAA tournament, Kispert was left in a position of either coming back for his senior year or starting his journey as an NBA player. Kispert decided to go through the NBA draft evaluation process in April, along with teammates Joel Ayayi and Filip Petrusev.
Petrusev ultimately left GU to pursue his professional career in Serbia, followed by Ayayi’s announcement to return to GU, leaving GU fans on edge waiting for Kispert’s decision. Then, in early August, the city of Spokane took a collective sigh of relief after finding out Kispert will be returning for his senior season.
“We wanted to come back and lead this team,” Kispert said. “With the decision Filip made, it was in both of our hands to come back. You look around and see the talent from the freshman to the guys with experience under their belt, it’s really exciting to look at from the outside and easy to want to be a part of it. It’s going to be the best decision for both of us.”
With this decision come heightened expectations for a team that has already put high expectations on themselves. With the additions of grad transfer Aaron Cook, the highest freshmen recruitment class in GU basketball history consisting of No. Jalen Suggs, Dominick Harris and Julian Strawther and another year of development from Drew Timme, Anton Watson and Oumar Ballo, the Zags are in a prime position to make a run at its first national title in school history.
And at the forefront of the charge will be the sole four year senior on the roster in Corey Kispert.
Kispert was put on the Julius Erving Award watch list last week for one of the best small forwards in the country, along with being a consensus projected front runner for WCC player of the year along with University of Pepperdine guard Colbey Ross. In typical Kispert fashion, Kispert said it doesn’t matter if he wins the individual awards or not. He just wants the big one at the end of the year.
“It’s a really cool honor to be named to that list and especially to have that recognition, but it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day because it’s just projections and polls,” Kispert said. “It only matters where you are at the end of the year, so it is a cool honor but you have to put it in your rear view mirror and keep working towards the season we’re going to have Colbey’s a great player and he’s given us a lot of problems over the years so I’m looking forward to battling that out with him come conference play.”
Kispert’s three point shooting, size and leadership will put him in a great position for the Zags to have back-to-back WCC Players of the Year following Petrusev winning it last season. Prior to the NCAA tournament being cancelled, Kispert shot 47.4% from the field, 43.8% from behind the three point line and 81% from the free throw line. Averaging around 14 points a game in 33 minutes last season, Kispert is primed to go off and help lead this team to a promising position next season.
In four years under head coach Mark Few, Kispert has proven to be the leader of this team. With Kispert coming back, younger players like Timme, Watson, Harris, Strawther, Martynas Arlauskas and Pavel Zakharov can look to Kispert to continue the tradition of what it means to be the leader for the Zags.
If the Zags are to win another WCC championship and be in the running for the coveted national championship, Kispert is going to have to be at the head of the pack leading the Bulldogs in The Kennel. With potentially no fans for the whole season, Kispert understands the challenge ahead and is ready to go at it with full steam.
“It’s a huge change for us not having that home court advantage because we pack [McCarthey Athletic Center] out every night and it’s a five to seven point advantage with the Kennel and the crowd behind us,” Kispert said. “But we’ve seen it with the NBA and we’re going to see it with college basketball too where the team with the advantage is going to have to motivate themselves and create their own energy, and I think we can be really good at that this year moving forward.”
Kispert is ready for anything and everything this season, and along with the guarantee of his return, you can also guarantee he will be the WCC Player of the Year at the end of this season.