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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga-bound Corey Kispert working to better his game

Corey Kispert, who officially signed with Gonzaga on Wednesday, isn’t a big fan of idle time.

He arrives at King’s High School in north Seattle three days a week at 6 a.m. for basketball workouts. He’s convinced several teammates to join him two hours before classes start.

Kispert has worked out at Northcore Performance Training for two years and made impressive gains in speed and strength.

He works on his game several days a week with his father, an administrator at Seattle Pacific who coached Corey’s youth teams.

“He has keys to the gym so I get in there as much as I can with him after school or on the weekend,” said Kispert, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound forward who has led King’s to a pair of 1A state titles.

Kispert is the lone member of Gonzaga’s 2017 class but he’ll have a classmate in guard Jesse Wade, who signed in 2015 and is serving a two-year LDS Mission in France and Switzerland. Contact between Wade and GU coaches has been limited to occasional emails.

Kispert begins practice Monday for his senior season.

“This is the part people don’t understand about Corey,” King’s coach Rick Skeen said. “He’s a tremendous physical talent but he has a work ethic and drive like no one I’ve ever met and he carries himself in a way that’s beyond his years.

“He carries himself like Russell Wilson. He’s a stoic, unflappable kid. I wish I had the poise and leadership he portrays. As soon is state is over, we meet and talk about a plan and he goes to work.”

Kispert’s prep career is stuffed with highlights. Skeen picked out two games. In Kispert’s freshman year, King’s trailed No. 1-ranked Okanogan in the state semifinals. Kispert buried a 3-pointer from the wing in the closing seconds to put King’s in the title game.

In last year’s quarterfinals, No. 1 Zillah led King’s by seven with 1:15 remaining.

“Corey hit two 3s, one that was probably 10 feet behind the line, and we ended up tying it with five seconds to go,” Skeen said. “We ran a play where Corey drew all five guys and he made a great pass to a teammate for a layup.”

Kispert has transformed his body from countless hours of lifting and conditioning to the point that “when we go shirts and skins, he looks a little bit like an NFL safety,” Skeen said.

Ask Kispert about King’s team this season and he mentions virtually everybody but himself. He points out a several talented younger players, a few players who have graduated from smaller to bigger roles and a strong frontline with a 6-8 center and 6-4 power forward.

“We’re going to be really good,” said Kispert, a 3.96 student.

Skeen has attempted to rest Kispert at times during practice, only to see Kispert working out on the side. Near the midpoint of past seasons, Skeen cancels a Saturday practice after a Friday night game, instructing players to take a two-day mental break from basketball.

“Usually by about 1 on Saturday he’s texting me, wondering if it would be OK if he went to the gym for an hour,” Skeen said. “I’ll say, ‘Corey, you really need the time off. I’ll make you a deal. Shoot 100 free throws and then get out of there.’ ”

Kispert said he chose Gonzaga over Notre Dame and Virginia because of the Bulldogs’ winning ways and family atmosphere. It reminded him of King’s.

Skeen has long been a fan of GU’s program but remained neutral in the recruiting process so Kispert would arrive at his own decision.

“The day he made the verbal, his teammates and coaches all wore Gonzaga gear,” Skeen said. “And I didn’t have to go buy anything.”

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