WKU guard Kaspar proving tough as a freshman

Cole Claybourn

Kevin Kaspar drew comparisons to former WKU point guard Orlando Mendez-Valdez from Head Coach Ken McDonald.

It wasn’t for his ability to hit clutch shots like Mendez-Valdez did during his career, but rather because of his toughness.

That toughness that has helped the freshman from Istanbul, Turkey, claim the starting role on a young Topper team.

“We always knew he was tough,” McDonald said. “He’s taken advantage of the opportunity to get that starting role. Bigger minutes, bigger role…he gives you a fearless guy that is going to play both ends of the ball.”

Junior guard Jamal Crook started the Toppers’ first two games and played at least 20 minutes in both. 

But when WKU played in the Charleston Classic, it was Kaspar who got the start. He hasn’t relinquished that spot yet.

Through seven games, Kaspar is averaging 8.7 points per game and is second on the team in assists, averaging two a game — just behind fellow freshman guard Derrick Gordon.

His minutes have gone up as well, averaging 27 per game compared to Crook’s 14.3 per game.

Kaspar also emerged as a scoring threat in Charleston, averaging 11.6 points per game during the tournament — highlighted by a 15-point performance against Louisiana State.

The scoring didn’t come as a surprise to Kaspar, who said much of his summer was spent toward working on his shot. But he still considers himself a passing guard.

“Obviously I’m a guard. I’ve got to feed my teammates,” he said. “I think I look for the pass first. Scoring is the second thing in my mind.”

Before the season started, McDonald and the players noted how high the team chemistry was. The only thing that could change that, McDonald said, was when players started competing for starting roles.

Kaspar said there haven’t been any hard feelings between he and Crook since he became the starter.

“We go at each other. That helps the team,” Kaspar said. “Every practice we go hard so everybody’s going to win at the end of the season… I love my teammates. That’s how we’re gonna get somewhere. Team chemistry is the most important thing.”

McDonald said he hasn’t “given up on anyone,” indicating that he still wants Crook to play a larger role in the offense.

But he said Kaspar, though young, exudes the confidence that it takes to run a team.

“He’s pretty fearless shooting the ball,” McDonald said. “He’s one of our best 3-point shooters. I think he always wants the ball. He’s got a lot of savvy about him, and he doesn’t hesitate at all knocking in a big shot.”

Kaspar’s sudden emergence has been met with a great deal of respect from his teammates.

“I try to listen to him as best as possible, try to make out what he’s saying,” freshman forward George Fant joked. “He’s a floor general out there. He talks loud, and whatever he says makes sense ,and we do what he says.”