by Michael Smith
Grain Valley veteran girls basketball coach Randy Draper stared intently at the court.
Arms crossed, lips pressed together and sitting in a chair, Draper was likely trying to find a way to make his team even better.
This was about 6 minutes before the end of Grain Valley’s non-conference matchup with Kearney. It wasn’t time to celebrate, at least it wasn’t at the time even with the Eagles leading by 20-plus points throughout the fourth period.
After Grain Valley came away with a 47-23 win as the final buzzer sounded, Draper’s players surrounded him and applauded and cheered for their leader as the public address announcer stated that he won his 500th career game as a coach.
It was a milestone not many coaches achieve. But Draper, a pillar of the community, added another highlight to his legendary coaching career.
“I told them it’s a great honor,” Draper said of his conversation with his team. “My job is to maximize every team and get this team to maximize its potential. We have some work to do, but I love this team. They enjoyed it and I am glad about that.
“Five hundred seems like a lot when I just say it. I just tried to maximize my teams then one day you have 500 (wins).”
After the announcement Draper was presented with a basketball signed by his players. He also received some yellow notepads, a six-pack of Diet Mountain Dew and some Reese’s peanut butter cups.
“They got all the hits,” Draper said of the goods he received from his team. “The yellow legal pads and the Diet Mountain Dew, they hit all the hotspots for me.”
Some players then snuck behind him as senior Grace Slaughter, Ella Clyman and Cameryn Bown dumped a Gatorade cooler full of blue and white confetti on Draper as he bent over and pumped his fist halfway through.
Draper then posed for a photo with his players and the Grain Valley cheerleaders held a banner behind him and the players that had a photo of a road and some trees. It read, “THE DRAPER 500.”
Draper began as a boys basketball coach in Madison, Missouri. After one year at Madison, he returned to the University of Missouri to serve as a graduate assistant with the University of Missouri men’s basketball team.
He spent seven years at Camdenton before coming to Grain Valley where he spent the last 22 years of his career. His first win came against Higbee High School. He is now in his 22nd season in Grain Valley and 30th overall as a head coach.
“Both towns were out in force,” Draper said chuckling, while describing the game where he got his first win.
It was also a special moment for three of his athletes as the game also served as Senior Night for Slaughter, Clyman and Bown. They were ecstatic to see their head coach accomplish such a special feat.
“We’re all so happy for him and I am happy to be a part of that,” Clyman said. “To see him get his 500th win was cool. I remember going to the games as a kid and watching his teams play. Now I am playing for him.”
Added Slaughter: “Draper does more than you can imagine for this team. From watching film and watching other players and trying to help us become better basketball players and better people. To witness this moment is so special and amazing.”
Draper has built a reputation and a players’ coach as he has made many friendships and close relationships as evidenced by some of his former players attending the contest.
“We know he cares about all of us as a person,” Clyman said. “He’s an amazing coach but he takes time to get to know us as a person.”
Meanwhile, it was also a special game for three of Draper’s athletes as it was Senior Night for Slaughter, Bown and Clyman. Slaughter led all scorers with 21 points and Clyman had four. Bown led a pesky Grain Valley defense that made things difficult on the perimeter players for Kearney.
Grain Valley led 9-8 after one period and went into halftime up 23-10. The Eagles entered the fourth up 36-14 and cruised the rest of the way.
GRAIN VALLEY 69, KEARNEY 51: In the first game of the boys-girls doubleheader, the Grain Valley boys basketball team got its fifth win a row as they cruised to a victory over the Bulldogs.
Kearney led 19-15 after the first quarter but a big second quarter saw the Eagles come back and lead 34-25 at halftime. The Eagles (11-5) increased the lead 54-40 going into the fourth and closed it out.
Freshman Eli Herbert led Grain Valley with 26 points, including five 3-pointers. Junior Logan Marcum added 14 and senior Rhylan Alcanter chipped in with 11.
Grain Valley girls basketball coach Randy Draper, with basketball, and his players celebrate his 500th career win as a head coach following a 47-23 win over Kearney Friday at home. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley head coach Randy Draper pumps his fist as his players dump confetti on him. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior Grace Slaughter dribbles the ball up court. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior Ella Clyman goes up for a layup. Photo credit: Michael Smith