In the time that I spent as the Sports Editor at the Times Herald, I saw several youngsters who would later wear NBA jerseys, win national championships, be on the cover of sports magazines, be invited to NFL camps and were drafted by Major League baseball teams - along with numerous players who earn athletic scholarships and excelled at the collegiate level.
But that was not the best part of that job.
The best part was living in a smaller community, where you not only watched these kid grow up right in front of your eyes, you also got an appreciation for the hard work they put in, not just across a season or two, but across their whole athletic lives.
Over the last week, we had two senior athletes score their 1,000th career points in basketball. Washington’s Ally Hunsinger reached that mark on Thursday and Barr-Reeve’s Jenna Knepp on Saturday.
This a very nice accomplishment for any athlete or community, however, I believe around here it means just a little more.
I have seen both of these girls play since they were in elementary school. I think the first time I watched Ally play was during Sunday night basketball drills at Washington Catholic in about first grade. If you wonder where 1,000-point scorers begin, it starts with a basketball that never stopped dribbling, wristbands and a hard-nosed attitude at about seven-years old. I also recall watching her play on a boys’ AAU team in fifth grade, where she was able to intimidate just about every boy she came across.
I don’t think I saw Jenna play until fifth or sixth grade, where she was described as one of the best female players they had seen at that age. I then remember someone else nudging me in the ribs saying, “She is not a girl, she’s a KNEPP.”
Although they have different styles of play on the court, they are very similar basketball background where older siblings have not only achieved, but excelled.
Ally’s older sister Katie is all over Lady Hatchet records in both scoring and rebounding, currently still third on that all-time list. For Ally to catch her, she will need about 12 points a game through the first round of sectional. Ally’s brother Ethan also excelled, not only as a member of the 2010 state champion team, but also as a Trester Award winner. Ally is also a tremendous soccer player and any accolades bestowed upon her in basketball, hold true for soccer. She is quite a young lady.
Jenna is also a multi-sport star, having led Barr-Reeve to a state championship in volleyball this fall, also winning the mental attitude award, and is one of the areas best softball players. And she, like Ally, has also had successful siblings and relatives as role models. Jenna’s brother Hunter and Ethan both played on successful teams at Barr-Reeve, with Ethan being a 1,000-point scorer himself and a college player.
Jenna’s family is well-represented all throughout Viking basketball land this season. Her first cousin Hannah Bullock is a big part of the No. 3 Lady Vikings success, as well as first cousins Micah Bullock and Logan James who start for the No. 1 boys team.
They are both special young ladies and I’m glad I got a chance to see them play on so many levels. One gets to se them as athletes, students and more importantly - neighbors.
The 1,000 points is nice for the records, but what is a lot nicer is being able to look back eight or 10 years and knowing this day was coming. Congratulations.