Knipp adjusting to leadership role
After a mid-season slump, Austin Knipp's three-point touch appears to be back, which is good news for the Basehor-Linwood boys basketball team and its fans. With his shots from downtown beginning to fall again, Knipp could be primed for some big games as the season winds down.
Knipp started out the season hot, scoring in double-figures in the Bobcats' first three games and averaging almost 17 points per game during that stretch. The three-pointer was a weapon for him, as he hit one in each of the three games.
But by the fourth game of the year the scouting report was out on the Bobcats' offense, and stopping Knipp became priority number one for opponents. He had just seven points against Mill Valley and didn't attempt a three. Then came winter break and it seemed to cool off Knipp's shooting touch considerably.
The Mill Valley game was the first in a stretch of six in which Knipp went without a three, missing 15 straight attempts. During warm-ups he'd often swish triple after triple and then just shake his head, without a clue as to why they wouldn't go down during the game. It wasn't nearly as puzzling for his coach, Mike McBride.
"It's something I've seen before with kids like him who got used to playing with a lot of seniors," McBride said. "All of a sudden, this year those guys are gone and now all the focus and attention is on him. It's a tough adjustment to make."
Knipp started showing signs of making that adjustment during his shooting slump. He began taking the ball to the basket more to create easier scoring opportunities for himself. Against Bonner Springs he went 0-3 from downtown, but still was able to get into double-figures by getting to the free throw line and making 6 of 8 there. Then, in the Bobcat Invitational, he put 13 points on Pembroke Hill and his shot seemed to be coming around, as he made a variety of mid-range jumpers coming off screens and off the dribble.
The real breakout game, though, was two days later against Holton, when the lid finally came off on his three-point tries. It wasn't as though he got a particularly open look; in fact, Knipp's three swished through the net just as he was fouled by a Holton player. He leaped up, pumped his fist and high-fived Chandler Schaake, who set him up for the shot.
"It was a big relief, it felt like a huge weight off my shoulders," Knipp said. "It felt really good to make it, and to get fouled and make the free throw too."
Rather than become overly taken with his rediscovered three-point prowess, though, Knipp scored the rest of his 20 points against Holton with a variety of driving layups and free throws. It proved that his shooting slump might be beneficial in the long run because it forced him to use one of his greatest strengths, his explosive first step.
"As a freshman and last year I think I drove the ball to the basket more," Knipp said. "Then this year I came out shooting from the outside more for some reason. So, I'm just trying to get back to that a little."
Knipp has also started scoring more off his defense. He recorded a season-high four steals against Tonganoxie and Holton, which often led to layup opportunities. Considering the easy baskets he and his teammates got off those turnovers, it's no coincidence that those were the only two games the Bobcats had won until Tuesday.
Knipp has proved that his three-pointer is back and the one he made in the Holton game wasn't a fluke. He drilled a three in each of his last three games before Tuesday, matching the streak he had to start the season. McBride is watching him deal with the defenses that are thrown his way and wants him to keep the three in his repertoire, but play more to his other strengths, as well.
"We've seen it the last two or three games, he's really making that adjustment," McBride said after the Holton game. "Learning how to play as a team, moving the ball, picking and choosing his times and then understanding that if he gets the ball in the open floor he's so stinking fast, he can go. He went through that transition period when he wasn't using his speed at all. He's starting to get his shot back and he's got his confidence back. The big thing is that we're starting to trust each other, we're being a team."