Charged up to the max

Klumper earns Independent POTY with record-shattering season

Photo by Jake McNeill Westbrook-Walnut Grove point guard Izzy Klumper dribbles the ball along the perimeter during a 60-26 Chargers win over Murray County Central in Slayton on Jan. 25. Klumper led the Independent’s 12 area schools for the second consecutive year in the 2023-24 season, smashing the WWG program 3-point and overall scoring records in the process. She was named the Independent’s girls basketball Player of the Year for the 2023-24 season as a result.

WESTBROOK — Range. That’s one of the first words that comes to mind when taking a look at Izzy Klumper’s game.

The senior sharpshooter for the Westbrook-Walnut Grove was prolific with her long-range shooting all season long, shooting 39% from 3-point range while rewriting the Chargers’ girls basketball record books. Her long-range shooting resulted in her leading the Independent’s 12 area schools in scoring for the second consecutive year with 17.6 points per game, earning her the title of Independent Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

The Chargers had put together a quality campaign in their 2022-23 season. The team finished the year with an 18-8 record — an eight-win uptick from each of the two years prior — and Klumper had eclipsed the 1,000-point mark as just a junior. Still, Klumper and the team weren’t satisfied yet with where they were.

“[I wanted to] keep growing in my skills while also helping my teammates grow. We needed to work together this season to become an even better team, get a better record, and play as one,” Klumper said.

She added that since WWG hadn’t graduated a single senior after last year, the improved chemistry from playing with fellow seniors Addeson Jenniges, Abby Wiggins, Amelia Sikel and Ella Knakmuhs throughout high school helped the group become even more tight-knit.

Basketball has always been in Izzy’s genes. Her mother Abby (née Leboutiller) played basketball at WWG in her high school days and went on to play and Minnesota West Community College, where she hit a program-record 11 3-pointers in a game during the 2000-01 season. Her father, Dan, was a basketball standout for Worthington before going on to play football at Augustana. Izzy’s older sister, Olivia, was also named the Westbrook-Walnut Grove Female Athlete of the Year in 2020-21 and her younger sister Hazel is a student manager for the team currently.

Growing up, Izzy watched Olivia play basketball as a post player at Brandon Valley High School (they moved to Westbrook ahead of Olivia’s senior season). Olivia was a post player for the Lynx and Chargers. Izzy said that she always focused on shooting because she knew she wouldn’t be as tall as her sister, but that Olivia still played a major role in the development of her game.

“We played quite a bit of basketball against each other and I think one of the things that made me such a great player is watching her and her team over the years,” Izzy said. “It helped me become more competitive because we just pushed each other to be better.”

When she first started developing her talents for basketball, Izzy remembered looking up to Brandon Valley’s Trinity Law. Klumper said she admired the way Law — who just finished up her fifth year of playing basketball at the University of Nebraska-Kearny — was able to create her own shot while also aggressively getting to the basket.

“Shooting has always been the one thing that- I mean, everyone likes the 3-point shot… I needed to learn how to create my own shot and the 3-pointer was a big part of that,” Klumper said. “I always work on just increasing my range because it’s harder to guard. I needed [my percentages] to go up in all aspects of my shooting, continuing to drive the ball and get some new finishing moves.”

Dan Klumper was a post in his playing days. He said he’d attempt maybe three or four 3-pointers in a game but wouldn’t shoot it the way Izzy does. Still, he said that shooting was something he and Izzy worked together on often.

“When my daughters were getting older and into becoming basketball players, I just felt like if you can shoot the ball, you’re a dangerous player. So we just really focused on shooting,” Dan said. “Izzy had a natural shooting form so I just had this feeling like she’s got the potential to be a really good shooter because of the way she was shooting the ball in fourth, fifth, sixth grade.

“It’s just a nice, smooth release so we kept working on it. And you get 3 points for a 3 versus a 2, so you get more points. It’s the best shot to take.”

Beyond the arc, Klumper was nothing short of sensational all year long. She broke Jenniges’ program record for single-game 3-pointers by making nine shots from beyond the arc in a win over Wabasso on Dec. 9. If once could be written off as a lucky day with a hot hand, she did it again against RTR on Feb. 13.

Still, there was nothing flukey about Klumper’s consistency from beyond the arc. She broke the WWG career 3-point record by Christmas, surpassing Grace Woelber’s previous mark of 185 on Dec. 21 against Hills-Beaver Creek.

Yet, just having the record wasn’t enough. Klumper set the single-season benchmark with 102 on the year to finish her career with 250 trifectas.

Klumper said that the possibility of sweeping up the record books started to feel real after she broke the 1,000-point mark as a junior. With a full senior year still ahead of her, she knew she had more ahead of herself to accomplish.

On Jan. 27, the Chargers were set to host conference foe Red Rock Central in Westbrook. While the Falcons are among the Chargers’ chief rivals, RRC was in the middle of a down year while the Chargers were flying high at 14-3 heading into the matchup. Still, the game remained highly anticipated: Klumper was on the brink of breaking the school scoring record.

Amy Faber set the program record of 1,411 points and Kate Hansen tied it in 2003. After standing untouched for 21 years, Klumper scored 14 points to make history in a 74-20 victory.

“It was definitely on my mind. It’s hard not to be just because there’s a little bit of pressure to actually do it, but I was focused on the game,” Klumper said. “It was definitely in the back of my mind, but it was sort of a relief when I made it. I could just kind of forget about it and move on to winning the game, which was the most important thing of the night.”

Again, Klumper left the record in the dust. She finished her career with 1,583 points, an accomplishment she attributed to her parents and coaches and her teammates for holding her accountable.

“I got pretty emotional when she broke the scoring record because that’s a cool individual accomplishment. I was just thinking about all the work she put in, all the unseen hours,” Dan said. “We’re in the gym shooting and nobody can see that because it’s just us practicing and shooting and working on the game. The hotels, the miles that we’ve driven, all the weekend tournaments, it was kind of a culminating event that just made me start thinking about all those years coaching her and her growing up.”

While the offensive part of Izzy’s game is the part that is enshrined in the record books, she never slacked off on defense either. WWG gave her its girls basketball Lockdown Defender award as a freshman and at least a share of its Competitive Spirit award her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.

“There’s this good quote, ‘Offense sells tickets, defense wins games,’ so I kind of take that to heart,” Klumper said. “I’ve got to take care of the ball and make good decisions offensively, but defense is really the way to win a game or keep the lead up.”

“She wanted to play in games,” Dan Klumper added with a laugh, adding that he’s not going to play student-athletes who aren’t going to work to defend at a high level.

The Chargers defeated Edgerton 45-44 in their regular-season finale, led by 16 points from sophomore forward Leah Carter, to enter the Section 3A Tournament at 22-4. After a 58-25 win over MCC in their first tournament game, the second-seeded Chargers found themselves matched up against the third-seeded Flying Dutchmen for the second year in a row.

Last time around, Edgerton ended WWG’s season by a final score of 52-41 despite 25 points and five 3-pointers from Klumper.

This time around, the Chargers came out motivated. Klumper went down early with a knee injury but still, WWG went into halftime tied 23-23. That knee injury turned out to be a torn ACL; Klumper did not return to the game and WWG lost 52-51.

“It was a hard pill to swallow, knowing it was my last high school game and not being able to play,” Klumper said. “Just watching my teammates was something that I’ll never forget, feeling that kind of helplessness.”

Still, the injury doesn’t mark the end of the road for Klumper’s basketball career; while the six-to-nine-month recovery timetable won’t have her ready at the beginning of the fall, she is still planning on playing competitive basketball again next year after committing to the University of Sioux Falls. The Cougars went 9-18 last season but are full of young talent; each of their three leading scorers on the season last year was a freshman while their fourth was a sophomore.

Klumper wanted to emphasize the importance of her teammates in both her individual success and the team’s success.

“There are no individual accomplishments without a team because it’s a team sport, but there’s also no individual accomplishment without a tremendous amount of time, commitment and sacrifice from the individual,” Dan Klumper said. “[Izzy] had a really good team to play with, a lot of awesome players, but she also put in a lot of hard work on her own.”

Izzy added that the support of the community was also one of the highlights of her senior year, seeing how the people from the Westbrook-Walnut Grove area increasingly came out to support the team.

“It showed the girls on my team, myself and the younger girls in this community that girls can play basketball. Those goals aren’t out of reach,” Izzy Klumper said. “You can be a great girls basketball player, not just a boys basketball player… We had so many people at our playoff games, our home games, even some away games. I think that was a big thing that will stick out in my mind.”


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