Holcomb High School senior Jackson Stoppel is having a breakout year this season in Western Kansas for the Longhorns.
Stoppel, who stands 6-foot-0 as a combo guard, is averaging 20 points, six rebounds and three assists per contest in 2019-2020. He was named the Clarion Inn Roundball Tournament MVP earlier this season to go along with their All-Tournament Team for the second consecutive year. Stoppel also had some success last year as a junior in averaging 12.8 points per game and earned all-state honorable mention honors in 3A despite having a struggling season at 8-13 overall.
Stoppel is a very quick player on the court and has the ability to get to the basket and score. It also helps that he can soar in the air with a 33-inch vertical. He's also has great court vision and is a good distributor of the basketball while also having the ability to rebound despite having guard size.
Most kids start playing organized basketball at the ages of 6-to-8, for Stoppel it wasn’t until the age of 11. Why so late? He liked Legos, playing with dinosaurs and didn’t have any interest in playing sports. That changed for him as he decided to play in his small town and worked on drills with his father just seven years ago. Stoppel quickly caught up with the other kids who had played a lot longer and flash forward to now, he is one of the top 3A seniors in Kansas. He now loves the sport of basketball after having no interest in ever playing it as an elementary student a short time ago.
Stoppel is also an outstanding student at Holcomb with a 3.65 GPA where his favorite subject is Science. He would like to go into Physics or Engineering in college. He would also like to play at the collegiate level and is actively talking to a few schools.
Stoppel and the Longhorns are looking to get back on track this season as it wasn’t long ago the program was bringing home state titles under Coach Chad Novack and star player Conner Van Cleave. Novack is still the head coach and Van Cleave is now a starting first baseman at the University of Kansas.
While some players fly under the radar by statewide media coverage in Western Kansas, Stoppel has stood out this season as well as leading his team to seven wins already, just one off of what they won in 21 tries last year. The Longhorns are 7-2 on the year with losses to a second ranked 3A Hugoton team and to 6A Liberal by two to begin the year. Holcomb outscores opponents 60-to-48 this season.
Stoppel and the Longhorns will look to continue their success this year as they look to be one of the most improved teams in Western Kansas so far in 2019-2020. The sub-state is going to be a loaded one in Cimarron with the likes of Hugoton (8-0), Holcomb (7-2), Lakin (6-2), Colby (6-3) and Scott City (4-4). Also, in that field of eight are Cimarron, Southwestern Heights and Goodland with one berth to the 3A state tournament in Hutch on the line. The 3A field is as deep as any field in the state with several sub-state tournaments having a state tournament feel. For now, they are worried about a regular season and competing for a league title. We caught up with the breakout junior guard below in the latest Q&A of Faces in Kansas.
This feature is presented by High Plains Basketball Academy. Proud to support Jackson Stoppel. Best of luck to him and the Longhorns this season!
Q&A w/ Stoppel
How did you get involved in basketball and sports?
I didn’t take much interest in basketball and sports until I was in 5th grade. My dad used to be a high school coach when I was very young (hard for me to remember). He has helped me to catch up on my skills, since I took interest later than many of my peers who had played from a much younger age. For most of my childhood that I am able to remember my dad has been either a principal or AD so I have spent a great deal of time attending high school/middle school sporting events and in a gym.
What are your goals this season?
Of course, I want to win state and our league, just as every other player does. I have not really set specific individual goals for the season other than trying my best and helping my team to go as far as we can. I put in a lot of work this off season and had the mindset that everything else would fall into place if I work hard and try my best. My team and I had a really good summer playing in some tournaments and our chemistry as a team really seemed to grow this past summer, which is vital to success.
Do you guys have a shot to make a run this year?
I think so. The biggest challenge for us will be our size. We have some really good players and are capable of making a postseason run but it’s going to come down to how well we defend the better teams and players as we get deeper in.
What makes you such a force as a player?
My quickness and ability to get to the basket, and finish at the basket against taller defenders. I also think I do a good job of finding open players when I get stopped in the paint. I work hard to hustle defensively as well.
What’s the atmosphere like to play for your school and town?
Basketball is very important at Holcomb, and the students and community show it. Holcomb is a basketball town that has had a lot of success. We won a couple of state championships recently (14, 17 – 4 total) and was a runner up my sophomore year. We also have a great pep band and cheerleaders that contribute to the atmosphere.
For anyone that hasn’t seen one of your games, why come to one?
I believe we have high character kids, and we don’t have a lot of height but we play a very fast paced style of play that is fun to watch.
Who are other key players on your team?
Kobe Hands is a straight knock down shooter. Probably the best shooter in this area. He is also very intelligent and does a very good job of taking charges and putting the team first. Trey Cox is not much taller than me but is always matched up with the opposing posts. He is the closest thing we have to a post, and he does a very good job at it. He always plays very hard and aggressive. Cooper Autry is only a sophomore and is our tallest player. He is very skilled and a reliable shooter. Cooper has a very bright future ahead of him. Zephyn Mason is very quick and finishes well at the basket. He also shoots very well. Zephyn is normally who I am matched up with in practices, and we do a very good job of pushing each other and making each other better. He is always going to come to work and want to get better. There is also several younger players that play major roles on our team as well.
Favorite thing about Basketball?
Being able to compete. I love having the opportunity to go out and play against other players, even if its just in practice.
Do you play any other sports, tell us about that, what other positions do you play?
I participated in cross country the past two years and that helped develop a certain mental toughness in me that is unique to distance runners. I participated in football my freshmen and sophomore years. Holcomb won the state championship my sophomore year for football. I used to pole vault in middle school and early high school but did not participate this past Spring as I played AAU basketball for the Colorado Chaos out of Denver.
What is it like to play for your coach?
It’s great! He does a really nice job of pushing all of us in practice and holding us accountable for things we do wrong. He also builds positive relationships with each one of the players.
What did you and the team do in the off-season to become better?
I thought we had a very good off season where we had buy in from most of the team. We lifted 4 days a week, had skills Tuesday and Thursday morning. We also went to multiple MAYB tournaments. Along with all that we had a group of kids that would work out together just about every day of the week.
What interest are you seeing at the next level and what are your plans?
I have a couple of different schools I have been having conversations with.
At some point in my life I will be done playing basketball except at the recreational level. I simply love the sport of basketball and would love to be able to play into my college years, so I can play competitively as long as possible.
Favorite thing to do when you aren’t playing sports?
I enjoy being home with my family and hanging out with friends. I really love being outdoors and like going to the lake or the mountains.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In ten years I see myself graduated with a degree in physics or engineering. I would like to live somewhere in the country but right outside a bigger town. I hope to be in a position where I can start my own family as well.
Favorite subject in school, what type of student are you, GPA?
My favorite subject has always been science. I am a good student. I enjoy learning, especially when I am interested in the subject. My GPA is 3.65.
Who is your role model?
Someone that I have always looked up to is my Great Grandpa. He started out his life in the Great Depression and was taught what weeds are okay to eat so he could survive. He would go on to start his own business that is still running today. He had a very good work ethic that allowed for him to be successful. Someone I really look up to as a basketball player is Frank Mason. My family and I are very big KU fans, and I can remember watching him when he played there. I always really liked his mindset about playing basketball.
Best place to eat in your town or the surrounding area?
I would have to say El Rancho Cafe in Holcomb. I usually order the bacon cheeseburger.
One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?
Probably the most relevant thing to this story was mentioned earlier and that is that I really didn’t play organized basketball until around age 11. This seems to surprise some people as many kids begin playing at a very young age. When I was 6 and 7 and many kids were playing rec league ball I was more interested in playing dinosaurs, building legos, and playing outside. I literally had no interest in basketball and my parents felt childhood was too short for me to be playing a game I did not like or enjoy. Once I began to take interest I wondered if I would be able to play due to not playing at a younger age. My dad said if you are interested in this, we will catch you up. We would work on drills together. We got a team of boys together and started playing at some small town local tournaments near my home town. I spent many hours on the court by myself and with neighbor kids.