Randy Draper may be retired, but that hasn’t slowed down the popular Grain Valley High School girls basketball coach, who sits in his office watching a video monitor.
No, he’s not checking a “Friends” rerun or the nightly news, that’s not his style.
Draper is focused on video of the Lincoln Prep girls basketball team, who his upstart Eagles are scheduled to face at Saturday in Class 4 state quarterfinal action (time and site are to be determined because Silverstein Eye Centers Arena events have all been canceled or postponed through April 5).
“I’ve been up here all day watching video, getting ready for Saturday,” said Draper, whose 20-7 Eagles have reached the quarterfinals for the second time in the past four years.
“Yeah, that’s so cool,” said senior Keely Hill, who was a freshman when Claire Rose and Kendyll Bailey led the Eagles to the quarterfinals four years ago. “To go as a freshman, who was kind of overwhelmed by it all, to one of the seniors on this year’s team is pretty amazing.”
Ironically, those are the two lone times Draper’s teams have advanced this far in his 28 years on the bench – 19 with boys and the past nine with the Eagles girls.
“Someone just showed me one of those Facebook timelines, and we were in the quarterfinals four years ago today,” Draper said Thursday morning. “Claire and Kendyll and those girls were special.
“And this year’s team is special – for so many reasons.”
One big reason is 6-foot-1 freshman guard Grace Slaughter, who is averaging 23.8 points per game and who has shattered the school’s single-season scoring mark with 632 points.
“Everyone knows how special Grace is, and what’s really cool is how much the girls on the team love her,” Draper said. “She works so hard, and is such a great kid. We have a team where every player knows, and role, and they fill it every night.
“We won 11 games last year and have just two starters – (junior) Malia Gutierrez, who started late in the season, and Keely – and we’ve won 22 this year and made a nice little playoff run.
“It’s fun, it’s just so much fun because the girls are fun to be around, but when it’s time to go to work, they roll up their sleeves and get after it.”
Slaughter had to roll up her sleeves in Wednesday night’s sectional win over Nevada as the Tigers used a collapsing 2-3 zone that found three players around the young star.
“I’m ready for anything,” Slaughter said. “That was the toughest defense I faced all year (against Nevada) and I expect the same thing from Lincoln, but my girls can play and I know we’re all going to do our best to rise to the occasion.”
Draper created a basketball culture when he was in charge of the boys team, and he had duplicated that success with the girls. With Slaughter and Co., on the court, a ticket to an Eagles game became the hottest in town.
“I can’t even tell you how much fun we are having,” Hill said. “My sister played for Coach Draper, but I was really intimidated by him as a freshman. Now, I love him and am so thankful he is my coach.”
Ditto for Slaughter, who adds with a smile, “We all love him. I was afraid he might retire as a coach, since he retired as a teacher. We’re going to do our best to reward him for staying around to coach us.”