NEW CASTLE — The similarities are striking. Both girls play the same position in very similar ways. They utilize quickness and solid ball-handling skills while directing traffic on the basketball court. They can both shoot from the perimeter or drive to the basket.
Also, both Kylie Rich and Morgan Knepp are the daughters of coaches, which shows up in a high basketball IQ that Lapel coach John Willis is counting on to lead the Bulldogs this winter.
The summer basketball season came to an end June 28 at the Viking Shootout at Blue River Valley High School. Rich scored eight points and handed out four assists as the Bulldogs routed Henryville 49-19. Knepp had four points and two steals in an earlier contest, a 27-21 win over Union County.
Rich, a sophomore who saw limited varsity action as a freshman, and Knepp, a freshman getting her first taste of varsity play, were interchangeable at the point guard position during the 2016-17 season. The duo combined to score 6.6 points, grab 4.2 rebounds, hand out 4.5 assists, and average 2.5 steals per game last season.
Both figure to start during the upcoming season, giving Willis the luxury of having two point guards on the floor at the outset.
“The nice part is that I trust both of those kids with the ball,” he said. “They’re both a year older, and they both feel more comfortable with the ball.”
Knepp and Rich said their first stint at the varsity level a year ago was a learning experience.
“It’s a lot quicker than JV,” Rich said. “It’s a lot more intense. It’s a much bigger step from JV to varsity than you realize.”
“They’re a lot tougher and stronger than middle school,” Knepp said of varsity players.
The players said they enjoy a good relationship off the court, although it usually involves picking on one another. They also believe the friendship away from basketball will translate positively into what happens during the games.
“It’s important because the relationship you have off the court doesn’t always go away when you step on the court,” Rich said. “If you have a good relationship, that carries on through the game and keeps the attitudes (positive).”
The skillsets of Rich and Knepp are very similar. Both have the quickness to drive past a defender or to guard any opponent. They are strong with the ball and have the ability to shoot from the perimeter when the need arises. Knepp has also added the “Eurostep” to her arsenal, which allows her to change direction during a drive after picking up her dribble. It’s an asset she has been working on for a while.
“Me and my dad worked on it a lot in middle school,” Knepp said. “I saw other players doing it, so I just started doing it.”
Morgan’s father, Kenny Knepp, was her coach during middle school basketball, while Kylie’s dad is Scott Rich, also her coach for the Lapel softball team. Both girls said they treasure the experience of being coached by their fathers and that it helped get them ready for varsity life.
“My dad hasn’t just been my softball coach, he’s been my basketball coach too,” Kylie said. “He doesn’t yell at anybody, but he yells at me. I know when he’s yelling at me, he knows I can do better. I understand where he’s coming from. I know to listen to what he’s saying, not the way he says it.”
“John doesn’t yell at us as much as our dads do,” Morgan said.
Willis says that experience has taught his guards what it means to be coached.
“I think they have high expectations of themselves,” Willis said. “Sometimes, being a coach’s kid, you don’t ever get away from it. I think they’re both, when you say their name and they look at you, they’re going to pay attention and hear what you say.”
Rich and Knepp say the similarities in their game will be an asset when the season rolls around.
“We both know where to get the ball,” Knepp said. “We’re not going to force it; we know where to go and not go.”
“We’re both really fast,” Rich added. “We can run up the floor with each other, and we can pass the ball to one another at any time. We know how to move the ball, which helps us get our teammates shots and gets us shots.”