Jayhawk Insider: Leaving a Legacy
Born and raised a Kansas fan, Kylee Kopatich always knew she was destined to be a Jayhawk. When her role model Natalie Knight decided to attend Kansas though, she knew it was exactly the place that she was meant to be.
Knight and Kopatich had similar paths to KU, attending the same middle school and high school and sharing many of the same basketball coaches along the way.
“We are four years apart, so we never played together or against each other,” Knight said. “She was always coming in as I was leaving, but we always had mutual respect for one another and spoke when we would see each other. She would come to some of the KU games and I would go to some of her high school games as well.”
After serving as Kopatich’s role model and mentor for so many years, the pair’s relationship has formed into more of a friendship as they’ve both grown older.
Now that Kopatich’s collegiate career is over, Knight is confident that she will find success in whatever she decides to do moving forward because of her work ethic and support system.
“She is one of the hardest workers I have ever met on the court and it shows in everything she does off the court as well,” Knight said. “She has a wonderful support system in her family and friends and it is easy to see how she got to be the person she is today.”
Looking up to Knight for most of her life, Kopatich has now gone down in the Kansas women’s basketball record books just like Knight did.
In fact, Kopatich was the next Jayhawk to reach 1,000 career points after Knight did. No matter how impressive achieving 1,000 points is, that milestone was never on the mind of Kopatich.
“It never crossed my mind,” Kopatich said. “It was never a goal to score 1,000 (points), it just happened.”
Following 1,000 points, Kopatich continued inching closer and closer to the top of the Kansas record books and by the end of her career she had moved into the top 10 for six different career record categories, three different senior class record categories and three different season record categories.
Perhaps the most impressive of these accomplishments, however, is becoming only the seventh Jayhawk in Kansas women’s basketball history to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals.
Kopatich ended her career with 1,340 points, 515 rebounds, 206 assists and 203 steals joining Lynette Woodard, Angela Aycock, Charisse Sampson, Tamecka Dixon, Lynn Pride and Jaclyn Johnson as the only Jayhawks to achieve the feat.
Her favorite memory, however, didn’t have anything to do with the records broken or honors achieved.
Every Kansas player knows about the storied rivalry between Kansas and Kansas State, but for a Kansas kid it means a little bit more.
Having never beaten the Wildcats in her first three years at KU despite several close attempts, Kopatich was more determined than ever to beat K- State during her senior campaign.
“At the end of last year, they posted a graphic that said, ‘our seniors have never lost to KU. We have a streak of always beating KU.’ That was hung up in my locker.”
Not only did Kansas win in Manhattan, Kopatich, known for being a 3-point specialist, made a key triple that was a turning point in the game.
“I really don’t get excited (about making 3-pointers), but the one that was at K-State that’s on every video – that’s probably my favorite,” Kopatich said. “I’ve never had a game winning one but having threes that are a turning point in a game are pretty fun.”
With all of the milestones reached and records broken it’s easy to not forget her name, but Kopatich will be remembered for so much more. The two-year captain was voted the Vice President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and has volunteered with the Special Olympics since the beginning of her sophomore year at KU.
Kopatich made the effort to be as involved in the Lawrence and KU communities as she could and because of that commitment has connected with hundreds of fans throughout her time as a Jayhawk.
“My goal coming into college was just to make sure that I interacted with as many people as I could,” Kopatich said. “I tried to get to know a new person every time we went up into the stands and keep a relationship with them rather than just throwing up a t-shirt.”
Kopatich’s impact and commitment to the program has certainly made an impression on the community and even inspired other young girls to follow in her footsteps.
From the first game you play for Kansas women’s basketball, each and every player gets to know Terry and Amanda Young. Known as two of KU women’s basketball’s biggest fans, Kopatich has developed a lifelong relationship with the mother-daughter duo.
“Those first couple years at first were especially pretty tough with not a lot of wins,” Terry Young said. “But she (Kopatich) came out after every game and I would watch her not just with Amanda, but with all of those little girls. She would have a smile on her face, she would talk to them. Just the excitement of them getting to meet her, it was an exciting thing to watch.”
Making this commitment to the fans meant just as much to Kopatich as it did to the fans she connected with. By taking the time of connect with attendees after the games, she was making lifelong Kansas women’s basketball fans.
“It’s pretty heartwarming to see a little girl I met one time my freshman year come to every single game because of me,” Kopatich said.
Beyond all of the honors and accolades, the impact that Kopatich had on young athletes is the true legacy that she will leave at Kansas.
“Those little efforts like that where she would take the time with little kids especially and young players, to me – that’s her true legacy,” Young said. “She has these wonderful records – most minutes, the 1,000 points, the 3-pointers, but it’s the overall. She’s just such a wonderful person that she just had so much influence on future players.”
Not only are Kansas fans going to miss watching Kopatich play, Kopatich is going to miss everything about playing at Kansas.
“I’m going to miss it a lot,” she said. “It was such a huge part of my life and I would not have wanted to go anywhere else. I’ll cherish every moment I’ve had with fans and my teammates and coaches forever.”