By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer Enid News and Eagle
Bryce Kippenberger has a simple formula for success in basketball.
“I was just constantly playing basketball,’’ he said. “I just tried to get better every day and not settle for anything less.’’
The work proved to be successful as Kippenberger averaged 15.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 2.3 assists per game in leading Fairview to a 19-8 record and the area tournament.
Area coaches were impressed enough to vote him the Enid News & Eagle’s Northwest Oklahoma Player of the Year.
“That’s pretty exciting,’’ Kippenberger said.
“He’s one of the best players that I ever have coached,’’ said Yellowjackets coach David Baldwin.
The award capped an emotional year for Kippenberger, who had moved to Fairview last summer after leading Hennessey to the Class 2A state semifinals.
The family had lived in Hennessey since he was in the third grade.
“It was tough leaving the guys,’’ Kippenberger said.
He said he appreciated how the Fairview community took his family in.
“They really opened up to us,” Kippenberger said. “It was like we have always been here. It’s a nice place to live.’’
The adjustment didn’t come over night. The school system was different. He said he had to change a “lot of things’’ in his normal routine, but in the end, he had no regrets.
“It was a good change for me,’’ Kippenberger said. “The guys accepted me and showed me how to do a lot of things. We had a lot of fun.’’
The most emotional moment came in the semifinals of the Okeene Tournament when the Yellowjackets beat the Eagles 54-40. Kippenberger had 10 points in the game.
“The (Hennessey) guys didn’t talk to me that much,’’ he said. “They were upset that I moved. I knew all the plays and I think that helped us to win, because I knew what plays they would run.
“It was really different being in a different uniform and being on the other side. It felt weird at first, but I’m happy that we won.’’
He had a season-high 31 points in a 63-50 win over Oklahoma Bible Academy in the district finals.
“The playoffs are always a good time to play,’’ Kippenberger said. “I always do better in the playoffs. It’s make or break. You have to play your best or you’re going to go home. I always tried to put that in the back of my mind.’’
The biggest disappointment was not returning to the state tournament. The Yellowjackets lost to eventual champion Latta 39-38 in overtime in the regional finals and fell to Hinton at area, 60-38.
“That was our main goal, getting to the state tournament,’’ Kippenberger said. “When we played Hinton, we came out flat. We didn’t play our best. We still had a great season. I accomplished lot for my first year to play with those guys.’’
There was some pain when he returned to the state tournament as a spectator instead of a player.
“I know the excitement of playing in the state tournament,’’ he said. “There’s no gym that compares to the state tournament. It was kind of tough.’’
However, Kippenberg enjoyed playing in the Fairview gym and found out why it’s called the Echodome.
“It gets to you at first,’’ he said, “But after a while you get used to it. We had a lot of support; it’s amazing to see how many people supported us.’’
Kippenberger, who didn’t play football for Hennessey’s state championship teams as a sophomore and junior, became a star receiver and kick returner for a 10-2 Fairview team.
“I thought playing football would be a good way to get to know the guys,’’ Kippenberger said. “It ended up pretty good.’’
But he’s first and foremost a basketball player. Baldwin said Kippenberger’s defense often was overlooked admist his impressive offensive stats.
“A lot of teams saw me more as a scorer,’’ he said. “But I let my defense lead to scoring. I tried to steal the ball and get layups. Offense will win you a few games here and there, but it’s defense that wins championships.’’
He is a hard core defender, who likes being aggressive.
“I tried to make whoever I was guarding mad,’’ he said. “If I did, whatever I’m doing is working.’’
He continues to live the dream of playing college basketball, although he doesn’t have any definite offers.
“I have a lot of tryouts planned,’’ Kippenberger said. “Ever since I’ve had a basketball in my hand, my dream has been to play in college. I’ll try to see if I can go somewhere. I can’t give it up.’’
Kippenberger, who aspires to be a coach, said he has benefited from having three coaches in high school. He played under both Brady Barnes and Brady Page at Hennessey.
“Every coach has a different style,’’ Kippenberger said. “They were all good examples for me. I learned a lot from all of them.’’
Ask him his favorite player, and it won’t be a Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook.
“Everyone that I played with was my favorite player,’’ Kippenberger said. “I enjoyed everybody.’’