On a team loaded with young players, freshman Jessica Koch is one of many players on the Missouri Western women’s basketball team with an incredibly bright future ahead of her.
Koch grew up with basketball; the sport is in her family’s blood.
“It’s kind of a thing that runs in my family,” Koch said. “My dad played and my brother played, so that’s how I got started.”
Koch came from her hometown of Kansas City to Missouri Western as a freshman during the 2007-2008 season, but her dreams of making a quick impact for the Griffons were shattered when she experienced a season-ending knee injury after playing in just four games.
Luckily, Koch was able to keep her year of eligibility and redshirt, but sitting out wasn’t easy.
“I felt like I missed a lot last year,” Koch said. “It sucked sitting and watching.”
Koch started her rehabilitation process as soon as possible. Head coach Lynn Plett was happy with her quick recovery.
“Normally for an injury like that, it takes four to eight months of rehab and about a year to get completely back where they were,” Plett said. “She had surgery shortly after New Years and started her rehab process as soon as she could.”
Koch went through rehab for the remainder of her freshman year and participated in the Acceleration program over the summer to help get back up to speed. Slowly, she began to play again, starting with three-on-three and four-on-four, then eventually regular basketball.
“It was a long process, but it was definitely worth it,” Koch said. “It was a huge relief to get back into the swing of things with my teammates.”
Now, Koch is leading the Griffons in total points and points per game, averaging 12.6. She also leads in assists and free throws made and is second in rebounds behind Tierra Ford.
“Jess plays hard,” Plett said. “She’s not a lazy player in the slightest. She works exceptionally hard at her game. I think part of that is because she really enjoys basketball. She’s the gym rat type – she just loves to be in the gym.”
Koch agreed that one of her biggest strengths as a player is her work ethic and her love of the game.
“I’m just a hard worker, which I think is contagious on the team,” Koch said. “If one player works hard, then the other players work hard, too. I think all of the emotions that you go through, having teammates behind you, and playing in front of a crowd really exhilarates you.”
On top of her work ethic, Koch also brings a great deal of talent to the Griffon team.
“She has skills that enable her to be a very versatile player,” Plett said. “She can shoot the ball from the outside and she can create shots for herself and for other players. Because of her work ethic and athleticism, she’s also a great defensive player. Jess has good speed and good size, she’s 5’10” and can still run the floor. She can guard a smaller player but she can also guard a bigger player if she has to.”
The future is nothing but bright for Koch and the Missouri Western team. Although the Griffons have struggled this season winning games, both Koch and Plett agree that as the team matures, the number of wins will increase.
“I’m really excited about the future,” Koch said. “Even just this year we’ve learned so much, and we are just going to continue to get better. We’ll bring other players on board to help us out too, and we’re going to be a really good team.”