Senior reaping rewards of program’s turnaround
Austin Knipp has seen a transformation.
The long moribund Basehor-Linwood boys basketball program is finally showing signs of life, and the player at the forefront of the change is also arguably the most accomplished athlete in Basehor-Linwood's history.
One would think this would heap an undue amount of pressure upon a high school athlete; one who could lead his team to its oft-stated goal of reaching the state tournament for the first time.
"I don't feel any pressure," Knipp said. "It is something that we know we can do. We know we have the talent. There is no pressure. If we don't get to the state tournament, it's going to be a building block toward getting better. This season has definitely been better than previous seasons."
This year has already included a pair of signature wins during the team's 3-2 start: an early season upset of 6A Bellevue, Neb., and the Dec. 15 drubbing of Mill Valley.
Knipp has been a mainstay in the starting lineup for the last two and a half years. As a sophomore, he began the season playing on the junior varsity squad. After four pre-winter break games, a member of the varsity starting lineup moved. Knipp was immediately inserted into his spot and has been there ever since.
"The main thing that got me there was hustle and hating to lose," Knipp said.
While BLHS coach Mike McBride has been vocal about his team's ultimate goal to reach the state tournament, Knipp and his teammates don't set statistical parameters as goals in the preseason.
"I have no individual goals," Knipp said. "I want to make myself better to help us get to the state tournament. That is everyone else's goal, too."
The Bobcats have clearly bought into McBride's system. Knipp thinks he was the perfect coach to push the team to new heights.
"He's definitely turned it around," Knipp said. "When he came here the first year, we were a little scared. He has showed us a new attitude. He has taught us everything we need to know. He is a good coach. I am glad that he came when he did. If he had come this year I would have missed a lot."
Knipp believes his most vital role to the team is his leadership.
"I am more of a quiet leader," Knipp said. "I am not very vocal. My actions speak louder than words. When other people see what I am doing, I think that picks them up."
Despite the accomplishments on the hardwood, Knipp's fondest athletic moments have thus far come from another sport.
"Definitely this year as a senior in soccer," Knipp said of his favorite memory. "But every year has been great. It has progressed better and better. This is my best year that I have had in high school."
Knipp has one semester left as a high school student. He is still unsure about his future, although he wants to continue his soccer career at the next level.
"I will be picking (a college) in the next month," Knipp said.
He is currently looking at several junior colleges, as well as Tulsa University, whose coach has spoken about Knipp with BLHS soccer coach Kevin Vincent. Knipp indicated that he wasn't necessarily being recruited at this point. He has sent highlight tapes to coaches and is looking forward to taking the next step in his life.
He's seen bigger changes before.