Kispert showing rapid improvement, on and off the court


WASHINGTON -- Corey Kispert was walking over to the side of the Wizards' practice court to sit down with NBC Sports Washington when he had to make one more shot. After practicing his 3-pointer and his free throw form, the last one was to be a trick shot, an underhanded throw off the sidewall of the facility that would fly over his head and into the hoop behind him.

This particular wall of the Wizards' practice court has padding that goes about eight feet up and then a massive street map of Washington, D.C. above it. Kispert lined up and started heaving the basketball off the wall, over and over, each time seemingly getting closer and without losing patience.

After about seven or eight tries, he got close, it rimmed out. Through some trial-and-error, Kispert had found his spot, so he kept going back to it. Not long after, with a group of camera-holding onlookers having converged, he got one to go down.

"That's the U St. bounce," Kispert quipped.

More accurately, the spot was in Anacostia. There are no street names on the map, in his defense. He's also new around here. But that exercise paralleled his trajectory in more ways than one.

Kispert is learning and you can see it in his numbers so far as a rookie this season. He has raised his points-per-game average, his field goal percentage and his 3-point percentage each month. 

Kispert has gone from shooting 37.9% from the field and 22.2% from three in his first 17 games to 45.6% and 36.7% in his last 25. Over his last 20 games, roughly a quarter of a season, he's shooting 39.4% from three, backing up the hype that preceded him when he was widely considered to be the best shooter in the 2021 draft class.

"I didn’t think my shooting percentages at the beginning of the season were indicative of the player I am. Water always finds its level," Kispert said.

Corey Kispert's numbers by month this season:

Oct. - 5 G, 1.2 ppg, 33.3 FG%, 0.0 3PT%

Nov. - 14 G, 4.5 ppg, 40.7 FG%, 24.3 3PT%

Dec. - 11 G, 7.2 ppg, 41.2 FG%, 36.1 3PT%

Jan. - 12 G, 8.3 ppg, 48.6 FG%, 38.5 3PT%

The Wizards' coaching staff has certainly noticed. Last Monday, when the Wizards hosted the Philadelphia 76ers in a matinee game, they had - for the first time all season - every player available thanks to Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant making their season debuts, and a host of others returning from various ailments.

Their rotation was set to change dramatically and, when the dust settled, Kispert was still standing. He played 30 minutes in the win, scoring 11 points. It showed he had earned the right to keep playing and in doing so took minutes away from more experienced veteran players.

"It just means I’m doing the right things. The first half of the season is all about finding what works for you, getting into a rhythm and a routine. I guess just getting on the floor last night was validation that I’m taking the right steps and doing the right things," Kispert said.

Beyond his ascending numbers, Kispert has impressed the Wizards' coaching staff with his feel for the game and how he can help an offense flow smoothly. He's in constant motion and makes quick decisions. When the ball is passed to him, he either fires a shot with a quick release (sometimes only flicking his wrist if the pass is thrown at chest-level) takes off on a catch-and-go or swings the ball to one of his teammates.

When the ball is on the other side of the court, Kispert rushes to open areas to space the floor. Or, he cuts to the rim, often with astute timing.

The Wizards are the most efficient cutting team in the NBA, averaging 1.43 points per possession on those plays. Kispert is one of their best cutters, ranking fourth among their players in PPP (1.44). He cuts most often among their perimeter players.

Knowing where to be on the floor and knowing how to move may seem like a simple concept, but it's not something every rookie grasps right away. Kispert credited his time at Gonzaga under head coach Mark Few as the biggest reason for his advanced understanding of that part of the game.

Teammate Bradley Beal, for one, can tell Kispert is not the average rookie in that regard.

"Corey is our shooter and I get mad when Corey doesn’t shoot the ball. Corey’s excellent, he played four years in college. He’s a four-year player, so he’s a mature rookie," Beal said.

"He’s not just like a young guy that is learning and the game is super fast for him. It’s moving a little slow for him. Granted, it’s still fast because it’s a different pace and a different game, a different style, but he’s able to adapt very quickly."

Kispert's improvement on the court isn't the only way he has caught the attention of his teammates. After a practice earlier this season, center Daniel Gafford was asked to rank the five most stylish players on the Wizards. He put Kispert at No. 3.

Gafford described Kispert's fashion sense as versatile.

"He has the business casual, or he will come in with the everyday casual, walking around town," Gafford said.

"Wow, really? Let's go," Kispert responded when told of the ranking.

Kispert said he's been working on that part of his 'game,' as well, noting it's important in the NBA to look good when you arrive to the arena. That wasn't necessarily the case in college when cameras weren't waiting in the hallway on his way to the locker room.

It was also a bit more difficult given the weather.

"There was always like two feet of snow on the ground in Spokane," he said.

The more Kispert plays, the more Wizards fans will be able to get to know the 22-year-old sharpshooter. For one, he's working on getting a Master's degree in Business Administration from Gonzaga by taking remote courses. In November, Kispert had his last final exam the day after the Wizards played back-to-back games. He has been managing a busy schedule between the two commitments, though he is making sure the NBA is his top priority.

Kispert is also, interestingly enough, a twin who dates a twin. He has a fraternal twin named Casey and his girlfriend, Jenn, is an identical twin. Jenn also played basketball at Gonzaga and was the 2020-21 conference player of the year. Casey played volleyball at Seattle Pacific University.

"It is fascinating. It all happened because of chance," Kispert said. "I get a lot of questions about dating an identical twin."

While the odds of two twins becoming a couple seem very low, it seems likely Kispert's current course of improvement as a player will continue. He's putting in the work to get better and, lately, the results have followed.

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