Fall 2021 SS Magazine

No. 1 Gonzaga's Corey Kispert trusting in God while elevating NBA draft status

Gonzaga standout Corey Kispert’s numbers through 12 games this season are hard to believe. The Edmonds, Washington, native is the leading scorer for the No. 1 team in the country at 21.1 points per game while shooting 60.8 percent from the field, 47.9 percent from 3-point range, and 86.5 percent from the free-throw line.

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Kispert and Iowa’s Luka Garza (the national player of the year favorite) are the only players in the country averaging at least 18 points per game and shooting better than 47.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Back in April, the 21-year-old Kispert announced he was going to go through the NBA draft evaluation process after averaging 13.9 points and knocking down 43.8 percent of his threes as a junior. In the announcement, Kispert expressed his gratitude to God for his time in Spokane.

“Since the day I stepped foot on campus, I’ve grown so much as a person and as a player, and I thank God every day for GU,” he wrote.

Kispert ultimately chose to come back for another year, a decision that is paying off in multiple ways. The Bulldogs are 12-0 and have held the top spot in the AP poll the entire season. They have wins over three of the top six teams in the preseason AP poll, and were scheduled to play No. 2 Baylor before coronavirus concerns prevented the game from being played.

Against preseason No. 4 Virginia — the last team to win a national championship — on Dec. 26, Kispert scored a career-high 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting and knocked down nine of his 13 3-point attempts. He has posted at least 23 points in three of his five games since the win over the Cavaliers.

Kispert’s athletic genes go back to his grandfather, Dainard Paulson, who played for the New York Jets in the 1960s. Kispert was a quarterback in high school before opting to focus solely on basketball.

And now the NBA has taken notice. Most mock drafts have him as a lottery pick, and he is practically guaranteed to be taken in the first round barring something unforeseen.

Kispert has two things listed in his Twitter bio, the second of which is “Gonzaga MBB.” The first is Philippians 1:20, the same verse he has in his Instagram bio: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”

His girlfriend, Gonzaga women’s basketball player Jennifer Wirth, has Jeremiah 29:11 in hers: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'”

Kispert and the Bulldogs are back in action on Thursday when they host Pepperdine. With the most difficult part of its schedule out of the way, Gonzaga is on track to be the first team since Kentucky in 2014-15 to finish the regular season undefeated.

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