Basketball seniors to be recognized

As the regular season comes to a close and conference tournaments approach, teams are looking for their time to shine. However, for certain players there’s a time in the spotlight where they know it will be all theirs.

It’s Senior Night, a time where seniors are remembered and honored for their dedication to the program in front of their home fans. For the Northern Kentucky University Norse basketball seniors, their night to shine will arrive Feb. 15.

Men’s seniors Kevin Schappell, James Cripe, Steven Wright, Anthony Teague and manager Nathan Rutledge will be honored in a pre-game ceremony before the Norse go against Kentucky Wesleyan. The four seniors are a huge reason for the team’s success this year, and make up the bulk of the team’s points as the top four scorers.

The women’s seniors are Brittany Winner, Karyn Creager, Betsey Clark, Katie Butler, Karmen Graham and manager Zac Cook.

For seniors Cripe, Wright and Teague, their time with the program has been shor-lived, however, the three Division I transfers have already made their mark on the program.

Cripe is a transfer from the University of Dayton who opted to transfer here for his final year of eligibility. At 7-foot, he became the tallest player in NKU’s history, and had the chance reunite with former Loveland High School teammate Schappell. Cripe has helped the Norse this year tremendously in the post where he has created many defensive struggles for opponents.

In his first year with the Norse, Teague has made a name for himself on offense, particularly behind the three-point line where he is currently shooting 39 percent. The transfer from the University of New Mexico currently ranks third on the team in scoring.

Wright’s impact on the Norse has probably been the most noticeable. He has stepped in to become the team’s leading scorer, sixth in conference scoring and a candidate for the All-Conference team. Wright also reached a career milestone in an NKU uniform this year when he scored his 1,000-career point against the University of Southern Indiana. He previously scored 737 points in three seasons at Bowling Green State University.

Then you have the two other seniors for NKU. Schappell and Rutledge have both spent their entire careers with the Norse and are the only two with the program who have been under coach Dave Bezold, and former coach Ken Shields.

Rutledge is a senior manager with the team who takes great pride in the work he does and the relationships he has made since joining the program. Although at times his work may seem harder and more time consuming than that of the scholarship players whom he works with, “Rut” (as he is known to the players and coaches) feels that his experience is one that he has never regretted and will never soon forget.

“I would certainly feel that it has been well worth it,” Rutledge said. “I have had the pleasure to work with some really special people over the years, and words can’t describe how much I will miss them.”

His daily responsibilities as a manager range from setting up for practice, mopping the floor, getting the practice gear out, doing the laundry and rebounding for any player who wants to get some extra shooting in after practice. “One thing I try to do is make sure that I am the first to arrive and the last to leave every day, although at times I must confess Schappell does beat me there,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge’s comment on Schappell would most likely be backed by the rest of the coaches and players. His relentless hard work and dedication to the program are also some of the main reasons he decided to return for his final year of eligibility.

“I came back for my final year for a few reasons,” Schappell said. “I felt that I could not bail out on my coaches and teammates, I have yet to experience playing in the NCAA Tournament, and I love playing basketball.”

Schappell’s final reason is most noticeable to those around him. He is the definition of a ‘gym rat’ who stays late after, and shows up early before practice to get in extra shots. His routine includes getting up 500 shots each day, including 200 free throws and 200 three-pointers.

The hard work and dedication he has shown is something that he hopes will forever be his impact on the basketball program at NKU.

“I hope that I will be remembered for being a great teammate, a hard worker, and a person that will do whatever the coaches ask of them,” he said. “I hope that those qualities carry over on the underclassmen that are on this team and that this program continues to be one of the best Division II programs in the nation.”

Winner, a transfer from Elon University, will complete her third season at NKU this year. She can play forward and guard. Last season, she was named Most Valuable Player at the GLVC tournament. Winner has made many impact plays for the Norse and currently leads the team in steals, points, turnovers, field goals and 3-pointers.

Creager has spent her entire career with the Norse and set her mark in being one of the top free-throw shooters in the nation. This season, she set a record at NKU for having 34 consecutive made free throws, breaking her previous record of 27.

Last season she was named honorable mention All-GLVC. Creager will most certainly be known for her many accomplishments. In The Hot Seat in the Jan. 17 issue of The Northerner, Creager said, “I think I would also like to be known for my hard work and dedication.”

Clark will also complete her entire career at NKU. She plays guard and is fifth on the team for assists. Last season, she averaged 2.2 points and 1.1 rebounds, and had 42 assists and 11 steals. For her senior year, Clark said that she wants to win it all. “We definitely want to defend out title as Conference Champs, host regional and win a national title,” she said.

Butler, a transfer from the University of Dayton, wraps up her second year as a Norse. At NKU, she has definitely showed her skills on offense. She is third on the team in 3-pointers made and fourth on the team in points scored.

Graham is the last senior who has spent all four years at NKU. She has made a name for herself by running the floor. Last season she was one of GLVC’s top players being named to the All-GLVC and All-Region first teams, and earning honorable mention All-America accolades.

Graham is second on the team for free throws made and fifth in offensive rebounds.

Zac Cook is also ending his career as manager. He has worked with women’s basketball for three years.

Zac as managed for men’s basketball, volleyball and softball in the five years he has been at NKU.

Yes, it is time consuming and involves a lot of dedication to with being eat every game and practice, but Zac says he loves to do it because the passion he has for sports.