Archive for Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Knipp puts his skills up against collegiates

Basehor-Linwood senior searching for the right place to take his game to the next level

November 21, 2006

Anyone who watched Basehor-Linwood High School senior Austin Knipp burn through the competition on the soccer field this season probably wondered how he'd fit in at the next level.

Knipp got a taste of college competition recently and found that he can hang with those players, but has some hard work ahead of him.

Two weeks ago, just before the start of basketball practice at BLHS, Mid-America Nazarene University head coach Kevin Wardlaw invited Knipp to come and work out with his team.

"I follow high school sports and I saw his name come up in the (Kansas City) Star as a guy who scored a lot for Basehor," Wardlaw said.

Knipp also caught Wardlaw's eye because he broke the state's career goals record, which was previously held by Jon Lemmon. Lemmon is now a sophomore playing under Wardlaw at MNU.

"I teased Jon about it relentlessly, he went home and cried and we had to get him some therapy," Wardlaw joked, with Lemmon sitting on the other side of his office listening.

Knipp visited MNU for soccer practice a week before Wardlaw and his team traveled to Florida for the National Christian College Athletic Association's championship tournament. The Pioneers were training hard and Knipp said the intensity was different from high school soccer.

"It was really fast-paced and I wasn't used to that," he said. "It was definitely a level higher than I've been playing at."

Knipp spent some time playing forward in 8-on-8 drills, paired up on the front line with Lemmon. Lemmon fired rocket shot after rocket shot with his left foot and Knipp said he was surprised to learn later that the former Maranatha Academy star is actually right-footed.

Knipp said he was very impressed with the skills of both Jon Lemmon and his freshman brother, Alec. He gave himself more mixed reviews.

"I didn't do as well as I could have, but I think that's all about getting to know college soccer," Knipp said.

Wardlaw said he liked what he saw, but added that Knipp, like most players, will have to work hard to take the next step.

"I think he's a solid player," Wardlaw said. "You're doing something right when you score 100 goals in high school. That being said, college is a whole other level."

Knipp also recently attended a training session at Ottawa University that brought together some of the area's top recruits. He said he performed well in a field that included mostly unfamiliar faces, with the exception of all-state Tonganoxie defender Alex Nowasell.

With basketball season now under way, Knipp's recruiting visits will take a back seat to helping the Bobcats in a quest for their first winning season in several years.

But he said that when his work on the hardwood is finished he'll spend most of his free time with a soccer ball at his feet.

"If I'm going to play college soccer, it's going to be a year-round commitment," he said. "Basketball season's going to kind of be my final break (from soccer)."

Knipp is unlikely to lose any conditioning during basketball season. He's expected to be a key part of the team and noted that BLHS basketball coach Mike McBride pushes him as hard as any of his other coaches.

Before the basketball games get started Knipp will likely receive some more postseason soccer awards that will boost his college resume.

The Kansas Coaches Association will release its all-state awards soon and he's basically a lock for first-team. He made the team last year and he increased his goal total by 12 this season.

There's also the all-metro awards, given by the Kansas City Star.

Those will be a bit more competitive, since they include players from both sides of the state line and high schools of all sizes.

Still, Knipp's 35 goals led the metro area this year and that's a strong argument for including him on the team.

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