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Monday, May 17, 2021

Following in her father’s footsteps

By Tyler Urke

 

Even though they’d lived together her whole life, Hannah Stipanovich didn’t realize who her dad was until she was in grade school.

A trip down to the Stipanovich family basement with her older sister Sadie revealed boxes full of newspaper clippings, high school state and Big 8 championship rings and NBA jerseys. Stipanovich also found VHS tapes of her dad’s playing days.

“It was the first time he showed us film of himself,” Stipanovich said. “We were just like, ‘Whoa, you were the real deal.’”

Hannah is a senior forward/center on the Western women’s basketball team and is the daughter of former NBA player Steve Stipanovich. Having a 7-footer for a dad helps with genetics, but Hannah’s success in college basketball stems from hard work and a love of sports every Stipanovich sibling shares.

Hannah Stipanovich and her dad Steve. Hannah, a forward/center, was the leading scorer for the women’s basketball team in 2018, averaging 12.6 points per game. // Photo courtesy of Hannah Stipanovich

Hannah has five siblings, including two older sisters that played collegiate sports. Kelli played volleyball at University of Arkansas, where she was selected first-team All-SEC, and Sadie played basketball at Saint Louis University, where she is the all-time leading scorer in program history.

However, Steve said he never forced his children to play sports. He said he had to be careful how much constructive criticism he gave his children.

“I think that’s every dad’s temptation,” Steve said. “If the kids wanted to play sports, I’m available. But I certainly didn’t want to be the type of dad that pushed them to do something.”

Hannah said her parents never forced her into playing basketball, but she gained valuable insight from her father. Steve led the University of Missouri to more than 100 wins in his four-year college career and was selected with the second overall pick in the 1983 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers.

“He would be my rebounder or help me with post moves,” Hannah said. “He was always available but never pressured me to play. I always respected that about him.”

Hannah also wasn’t forced to play basketball because she was more passionate about volleyball growing up. As a junior at Clayton High School in St. Louis, Missouri, Hannah was selected all-state and helped her team win a state championship.

Sadie was a senior on the team and said Hannah was a phenomenal volleyball player.

“I attribute the whole state tournament run to her,” Sadie said. “She killed it on the court.”

Steve Stipanovich visiting Hannah to watch one of her Western games. // Photo courtesy of Hannah Stipanovich

Up until her senior year of high school, Steve said basketball had just been a sport Hannah played because her friends did too. Steve had stepped in to coach Hannah’s high school basketball team and he said he noticed she started taking a liking to basketball more.

Hannah didn’t have much exposure to college coaches at that point, but she was recruited and signed by Division II Metropolitan State University of Denver out of high school. Hannah said a negative coaching experience led her to strongly consider the idea of transferring to Western, but not before consulting her father.

“My mom didn’t want me to transfer but my dad understood,” Hannah said. “He helped convince my mom transferring was OK.”

Steve said he remembers being hesitant at first, but when he talked with Western’s head coach Carmen Dolfo, he was impressed.

“I can’t say enough nice things about Carmen,” Steve said. “I think it was a very healthy environment for her on and off the court.”

Steve said because Hannah wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, he wasn’t sure how her college career would pan out. But he said he was always confident in her character.

“I didn’t know how much success she would have, but I knew with 100 percent certainty she’d be a great teammate and work extremely hard,” Steve said.

Sadie said Hannah’s leadership is something ingrained in the family.

“She’s so vocal on the court,” Sadie said. “(Steve) held us accountable for those types of things.”

Hannah’s college career came to a close Saturday, Feb. 24 in a 76-63 home loss to Montana State University Billings. But on senior night, Steve came to watch his daughter play one final time.

“Every time he comes and watches me play it’s really special to me,” Hannah said. “I still get so excited and nervous.”

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