Wizards

Corey Kispert's parents give insight into who Wizards drafted

Wizards

Wizards 2021 first-round pick Corey Kispert's parents were both star college athletes at Seattle Pacific University whose athletic experience gave them a unique frame of reference to spot the extraordinary talent in their own children. 

Craig Kispert, Corey's father, was a basketball player and his mother, Deri, a volleyball player. They saw something special in Corey at a young age. No matter what sport they put him in, he excelled so quickly that choosing which to focus on full time was not a simple decision.

"[I knew] when he started beating me in 1-on-1 at about seven years old," Craig Kispert told NBC Sports Washington.

"He's just always been able to do things that other kids his age just can't," Deri Kispert said. "He's one of those kids that can just see it and do it."

Corey Kispert was in elementary school when his parents realized his athletic ceiling was high. Perhaps he could get a scholarship or even play professionally. But whether it would be in basketball or football, they weren't sure and didn't want to pressure Corey in any one direction. He was also a standout in baseball, golf and track and field.

"When he was younger, whatever sport was in season was his favorite. He was kind of naturally drawn to and seemed like he was at his happiest when he was sweaty. So, clearly we wanted to keep him active," Craig Kispert said. 

"Once he started to grow and once I saw his jump shot at a young age, it was like 'okay' and then, when he started playing with his brother, who is two years older, it was like 'okay, he could be pretty good, I guess,'" Craig Kispert said. "He had a lot of success in all the different athletic endeavors and then probably about junior high he kind of decided basketball was the one he wanted to kind of focus on most."

 

Craig and Deri Kispert let their son choose his own path, but there were others who tried to point him in different directions. His maternal grandfather, Dainard Paulson, was a two-time Pro Bowl defensive back who played six seasons for the New York Jets in the 1960s.

Paulson, naturally, wanted him to play football and he saw potential in Corey as a quarterback.

"His grandfather always said he had an NFL arm. The big question, and he played quarterback for a little bit in high school, but the question was 'can he take a hit?' He can take a hit in basketball just fine, but football is a little [different]. We never found that out," Craig Kispert said.

The Kisperts were with Corey in Brooklyn, N.Y. for the draft, sitting with him at his green room table. They then accompanied him to Washington days later for Corey's first charity event with the Wizards, a back-to-school giveaway in Ward 8 just blocks away from the team's practice facility in Southeast D.C.

It was their first family trip to the District as Corey was drafted by a team that plays thousands of miles away from their home in the Seattle area.

But now the Kisperts are likely to make many more trips to to Washington, D.C. to see their son play. When they do, there may be some déjà vu. Corey Kispert will reunite with his former college teammate, Rui Hachimura, who also starred at Gonzaga before becoming a Wizards first round pick in 2019. 

"That's going to be a lot of fun. It's great there is a familiar face that he's got when arriving here in Washington," Craig Kispert said. 

"There will be different systems and different things, but they clearly know each other, know each other in how they play. So, there should be some good connections there. Rui's a great, I call him a kid, but it will be fun for Corey to reconnect with him."

Corey Kispert's basketball journey will now take him to the NBA where the family has long envisioned he would someday be. He joins a Wizards team that needs to improve their three-point shooting and that is Corey's biggest strength. He was a 40.8% career three-point shooter in four years at Gonzaga.

Being at the draft on Thursday night with Corey was a special experience for the Kispert family. Now, it's time for him to begin what they hope will be a long and successful NBA career.

"It's one of those things where I've watched and he's watched his whole life," Craig Kispert said about NBA draft night. "To actually be inside the ropes and see it from the inside is still kind of hard to believe. I'm just so grateful and happy for him."

 

"The culmination of a lifetime of his hard work. We're just so happy to see him achieve that. It's just emotional, surreal, just totally and completely joyful. It's his thing, it's been driven by him the whole way," Deri Kispert said, wiping her eye.

"It's also a gift. We look at things that way. So, it's a combination of all those things. He's such a great kid."