By Trevor Wenners
Assistant Director of Sports Information
There is not a selfish bone in Riley Chlupacek's body.
The 5-foot-7 shooting guard was the ultimate team player for the LaGrange College women's basketball team from 2015-19. She ranks eighth in the Panthers' record book in career 3-pointers (102) and in a tie for fourth in single-season 3-pointers (55).
The numbers are impressive, but Chlupacek's main focus was on the win-loss column and getting better as a team.
|Riley Chlupacek will be a familiar face for the Panthers this season.|
"I never really cared about my own statistics," said Chlupacek. "I wanted to go out and win every night, but that competitiveness was never selfish. I wanted to get the job done, regardless of who was doing it and that still stands true."
In each of her four seasons in a Panthers' uniform, LaGrange reached the USA South playoffs. The Panthers advanced past the first round in 2015-16 and 2016-17, as Chlupacek played a supporting role.
Fast forward to the 2017-18 season and the junior sharpshooter emerged as a game-changer, averaging 8.2 points in 27.4 minutes per game. She started 19-of-26 games and buried 55 3-pointers. The versatile student-athlete nailed four or more 3-point shots in six games, while draining a career-high seven against Berry. The seven 3-pointers in a single game are tied for the fourth most in program history.
The motivated young woman was the Panthers' representative on the USA South All-Sportsmanship Team as a senior. Chlupacek's last game at Mariotti Gym was a gem, as she went 6-for-7 from beyond the arc during a 71-59 win over Maryville on Feb. 3, 2019. The victory was only the third in program history against the Scots.
"My senior-night game was one of the coolest nights that Panther basketball had seen since I have been here," said Chlupacek. "We came out with a fire that Maryville could not match. My best friend, Marilauren Farr '19, and I had special nights. There are not many things that can compare to that energy and feeling."
Chlupacek is pursuing a master's degree in strength and conditioning at LaGrange, while serving as a graduate assistant coach. She is devoting her time and energy to continuing the outstanding tradition of the LaGrange College women's basketball program.
"Riley had a quality career and has a lot of ownership in our program," said Panthers head coach Lee Buchanan. "She has been a part of some great moments as a player and has helped build a positive culture. She is one of the top shooters to play for the Panthers and always worked hard on the basketball court. Now, she does not get to shoot in games, but will be helping our players become better shooters and all-around players. Coaching is a lot different than playing and Riley is adapting very well."
LaGrange (1-1) will compete in its home opener against Judson on Monday at 5:30 p.m.
Chlupacek, who earned a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from LaGrange in 2019, reflected on her playing days and favorite pastimes, while also touching on her biggest inspirations.
Q: How did you become an exceptional 3-point shooter?
A: It would be easy to say that some people are pure shooters and that it comes naturally, but for me, it had a lot to do with constantly getting reps in. I worked on my shot mechanics for a long time and it eventually became second nature.
Q: How has the transition been from being a player to a coach?
A: There was a feeling-out process, but things got easier. As a coaching unit, we are in a good groove. It is different not having to do the physical work anymore and instead having to teach the game. There is the same sort of energy surrounding the idea of urgency and getting things done. Being around Buchanan for so long has helped because I am familiar with him and his system. Most of the time, I know exactly what he is going to say about certain things, and it makes things easy as far as relaying a collective message.
Q: Could you talk about the pride and work ethic around the program?
A: The LaGrange women's basketball program is one of the hardest-working groups that I have ever been a part of. We have high expectations as a coaching unit and a team. We want to win, and our players are willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
Q: How would you describe LaGrange College?
A: LaGrange College is just one big family. Everyone knows everyone, and we know we will be taken care of.
Q: Who has been your biggest inspirations?
A: I could not choose between my parents. Both have supported and challenged me tremendously. I am so fortunate to be close to them and to have them in the capacity that I do. I am not sure I could ever thank them enough for everything.
Q: Which professional basketball player does your skill set resemble?
A: I am not sure you could put me in the same conversation as some of those athletes. If I had to pick someone, it would probably be Kyle Korver. He is a pure shooter and fun to watch when he gets in a rhythm.
Q: What would your perfect day include?
A: A perfect day includes being in nature with my dog and friends. There are not a lot of things that can compare to being present with good humans.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I love fly fishing, mountain biking and hiking. I like being outside, and that is how I focus and get back to the basics.
Q: What is a hidden talent that you have?
A: I am good at painting. I have a lot of abstract stuff that I have done on my walls. Everything in my room decoration-wise was done by me.
Trevor Wenners can be reached at email@example.com.