Jo Roepke and Kayla Smith are one of the top girls basketball dynamic duo’s in the state of Kansas. Roepke and Smith both attend 2A Valley Heights (101 students), located in Blue Rapids, about an hour north of Manhattan.
Roepke, a senior for the Mustangs is back after missing a majority of her junior season due to a torn ACL. Roepke, who also is a state track and field champion in the 100, 200, 400 and long jump, without even competing her junior year because of the torn ACL. Roepke has committed to play basketball at Washburn University next school year in Topeka.
Roepke is averaging 26.3 points per game in her senior season and has scored 30+ points in five games so far this season. In her junior year, before getting hurt, Roepke scored a career-high 37 points in a single game. Roepke has earned all-state honors in her first three seasons by the Kansas Association of Basketball Coaches and numerous other honors.
You can also find Roepke in the Guinness Book of World Records after teaming up with her old coach Bob Fisher in January of 2015 to attempt a new record for most free-throws made by a co-ed pair in one minute. The two made 44 free-throws in that time, beating the old record by 10. Fisher now has 15 World records in free-throw shooting.
Smith, a sophomore for the Mustangs is back in full force as one of the top class of 2018 prospects in the state of Kansas. Smith finished fourth in the 100 meter dash as a freshman and was apart of a fourth place finish in the 4x100 meter relay team. Smith also is a state champion in both the long jump and triple jump in class 1A.
Smith is averaging 21.6 points per game in her sophomore season and has really developed to be an outstanding rebounder as well. Smith averaged 19.6 points a game as a freshman for the Lady Mustangs. Smith had the privilege of playing junior high basketball as a sixth grader and started alongside Roepke who was an eighth grader at that time, so the duo started their future together then. Smith was eager to get past eighth grade and into high school, so she could be back with her old teammate. Smith's dad also played pro basketball overseas after playing division one. Her brother, Elijah, won four invidual state outdoor track and field championships last May in Wichita as a senior and was arguably the most oustanding performer in any class last season.
Valley Heights (8-4) took fifth place in the Twin Valley League girls tournament this past week after defeating Clifton-Clyde for the fifth place finish. The Lady Mustangs will hit the hardwood for their next game on Tuesday evening at Linn. Roepke and Smith will look to guide the Mustangs to the state tournament after making it to the state championship in 2014, but missing out last season.
This feature was presented by The Citizens State Bank in Waterville - Member FDIC, proud supporter of Valley Heights High School Athletics.
Q & A with Roepke
1. First off, how does it feel to be back on the court with your team after being injured for a majority of last season?
There is no better feeling than being able to do what you love most after sitting out of it for so long. I really missed not being on the court with my team but they were so supportive of me and never made me feel like I wasn't apart of the team anymore.
2. What does it mean to wear a Valley Heights jersey?
I wouldn't want to be wearing any other jersey other than Valley Heights. Every time I put it on I feel proud because of what all our team has accomplished over the years, and since I didn't get to wear it much last year I can't wait to put it on before every game.
3. What is it like having a teammate like Kayla on your team?
I love getting to play with Kayla. Not only are we great teammates but we're really good friends too. When we're on the court together I'm able to just look at her and she knows what move I'm going to do and where I am going to be at. Sometimes after we make a really crazy shot we'll just look at each other, shrug our shoulders and smile about it as we run down the court. We just have so much fun being out on the court together and making great memories with each other.
4. What is it like having coach Yungeberg as your coach?
Coach Yungeberg has now been my coach for three years. She is a good coach and really understands all of us girls, she knows how to get through to us and support us. With her and our Assistant Coach, Jordan Broxterman I just really look forward to practice everyday because they make it fun but at the same time I feel like I'm learning a lot from them.
5. What made you choose Washburn to further your playing career and education?
My dream had always been to play Division I basketball but when you blow your knee out your Junior year that kind of hurts the recruiting process. Washburn won me over by offering me a scholarship two weeks out of surgery, I knew right then thats where I was going to play. I wanted to play at a college where I felt like I was at home and where my teammates wouldn't just be my teammates, but my family and I found that at Washburn.
6. What is the best part of your game?
I like to think that I can play all parts of the game, but I would have to say offense is my strong point. My dad works really hard with me on my shooting so that I am prepared to shoot over anyone or get my shot off fast so that nobody has a chance to block it.
7. What has been your most favorite memory on the basketball court in your VH career?
I've made so many great memories with my team on the court but I would have to say that making it to state my Sophomore year was the most memorable for me. No Valley Heights girls basketball team had ever accomplished what we had that year and it was so great to be apart of it.
8. What will it take to make it farther this season than last?
If we want to make it to state we have to play together as one and support each other. I think that if we give 100% in practice and 100% in games we will never be disappointed because we are giving it all we have and that really all you can ask for.
9. How long have you been playing basketball?
I started playing basketball in 3rd grade. I started out playing Frankfort league where you would just play every Saturday morning and then in 6th grade we decided to start traveling and playing MAYB, and ever since then I kind of devoted myself to the game.
10. Who has impacted you the most in your career?
I have had so many people impact me over the years and help me get to where I am today, but the one that has impacted me the most is my dad. I told him when I was younger that I wanted to play college basketball and every day since he has helped me reach my goal. It doesn't really matter what my dad has going on that day, if I ask him to come shoot with me he drops what he is doing and he is there in the gym helping me get better. His support and dedication to me makes me want to work even harder.
11. What is something most people don't know about you?
So people at my school know that I watch a lot of game film but what they don't know is that I strongly dislike watching game film with my dad. He is always right and never misses anything on the film.
12. How does your success on the track help you with basketball?
In track I sprint and I jump and on the court you have to be able to sprint up and down the court and jump up to get the ball or do a jump shot, so both sports really help me prepare for one another and keeps me in great shape.
13. Do you have any gameday superstitions?
I've never been a superstitious person, but after blowing my knee out maybe I should be!
14. How much time do you spend in the basketball gym a week?
In the off season I spend about an hour and a half shooting and ball handling each day and during the season I spend about 14 hours in the gym, usually the only days I'm not in the gym are Saturdays.
Q&A with Smith
1. What does it mean to wear a Valley Heights jersey?
Getting the opportunity to play for such a great basketball program is such a rewarding feeling. Also, getting to play the sport I love every day is something I will never take for granted.
2. What is it like having a teammate like Jo on your team?
Having a teammate like Jo is so much fun. We are best friends on and off the court. We feed off of each other on the court and we’re always in sync with one another’s game. We’re always having fun on the court, as well. There are times one of us will hit a crazy shot or just be on fire during a game and we’ll communicate from across the court with some sort of facial expression, usually conveying a message like, “how in the world did that go in?”
3. What is it like having coach Yungeberg as your coach?
Jenny Yungeberg has been our head coach for 3 years. Her and our assistant coach, Jordan Broxterman, are very supportive of me and my team. They're very passionate about the game and we learn a lot from the both of them.
4. What are your plans for after high school?
I am undecided as far as where I want to attend school after high school, but I would like to go into medicine and possibly continue playing basketball if I am able to balance the two. But my career and education is first and foremost.
5. What is the best part of your game?
I think the best part of my game is my ability to see the floor. I love getting the ball to my teammates and assisting people to score. I am, as well, a scoring threat, but I pride myself on assisting more so than putting up the numbers.
6. What has been your most favorite memory on the basketball court in your VH career so far?
After some thinking, I can’t pin point one memory that stands out to me on the court. Really, anytime I’ve gotten to come out and play on my home court in front of the big crowd we always have, it’s a great memory.
7. What will it take to make it farther this season than last?
In order for our team to make it farther this season than last, Jo and I need to keep playing our game offensively and also have contributions from our other teammates. We all need to have the fire on defense that our senior point guard, Taylor Doner, has. She is extremely gritty and aggressive on the defensive end and if all five people on the court can get her defensive mentality, we will be unstoppable.
8. How long have you been playing basketball?
I’ve always been very exposed to basketball, but I started playing in an organized little league in the 4th grade.
9. Who has impacted you the most in your career?
My parents, Eddie and Kelly Smith have been the most influential individuals in my career. They push me to be nothing less than the best I can be.
10. What is something most people don't know about you?
Something most people don’t know about me is that I am the daughter of Eddie Smith whom is an outstanding basketball player to this day. My dad graduated from Omaha Central in Omaha, Nebraska. After he graduated from high school, he played basketball for Cloud County Community College for 2 years and then went on to play Division 1 basketball for UMKC. After his 4 years of college, he went overseas to Poland, Europe, where he played in a professional basketball league for a year. He still plays basketball in small men’s tournaments in our area and is still one of the best basketball players I know.
11. How does your success on the track help you with basketball?
I am always working my hardest to be the best on the track and court. I grind the hardest during the off-season between basketball and track and then of course during the summer lifting weights and conditioning to get/keep my body ready for the physicality of basketball and the endurance I need for track. After my successful track season last year, the expectations for an even more successful basketball season only went up. They both help me for the next season tremendously.
12. Do you have any game day superstitions?
I'm not a very superstitious person, but I tend to keep the same routine for every away game and the same routine for every home game.
13. How much time do you spend in the basketball gym a week?
Outside of game-days, I spend roughly 3 hours in the gym after school practicing every day of the week and I typically get in the gym Sunday nights to get some shots up; preparing for the upcoming week.
14. Jo and you are a dynamic duo, what makes you two so good at what you both do?
Jo and I are so good at what we do because of how in sync we are with each other on the court. We always know what moves one another are about to do or what shot we're about to take which makes it that much easier to get in position for a back-side rebound or a dump down-low. There are times we'll get a steal defensively and I almost don't even have to look to pass the ball because I know Jo has already leaked down the court in transition. We're also constantly looking for each other on offense to create scoring opportunities for one another. Sometimes, Jo will be on fire the first half (typically dropping 20+ points in 2 quarters, I recognize that and will get the ball to her any chance I have. Then in the next half she'll find ways to get me going and of fire, or this will happen vice versa. Our game together is very natural.
15. Did you look up to Jo before you started your high school career?
I had the opportunity to play Junior High basketball when I was in the 6th grade. Jo was an 8th grader and I started along side her. We always had so much fun and we were even putting up numbers together in just the 6th and 8th grade. I more or less just couldn't wait to get that duo going again in high school.