Karoline Striplin was attending an elite basketball camp at the University of Florida ahead of her sophomore year in Geneva County when a spectator approached.
The Observer told Striplin and his family the youngster was the best post player he had seen since Hall of Famer Larry Bird.
That’s not the normal comment, considering the words of encouragement came from Bird’s Indiana State coach Bill Hodges there to watch his granddaughter play.
“For him, even knowing who I am was mind blowing,” said Striplin, who was announced today as the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Miss Basketball.
Striplin is the 34th Miss Basketball, first selected in 1988 and from the county of Geneva. Striplin took home the award, presented by Alfa Insurance, with an impressive list of accomplishments in his last season with the Bulldogs.
Striplin has recorded a double-double in all 25 games this season with 10 triple-doubles and one quadruple-double. She was among the state’s leaders in points with 670 (26.8 per game), 420 rebounds (16.8 per game), 154 blocks (6.2 per game), 140 assists (5.6 per game), game) and 105 interceptions (4.2 per game).
The 6-foot-3 senior player set an AHSAA one-season record, making 44 consecutive free throws and also had streaks of 22 and 28 in a row, converting a total of 87 of 177 (87%).
The Tennessee signatory was named Class 2A Player of the Year, was a member of the Super All-State Girls Team and was selected four times to the ASWA All-State Team.
Striplin is a nominated Gatorade Player of the Year with Bryant Jordan Scholar Athlete and MVP of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. She was also nominated for the McDonald’s All America team.
Striplin was fortunate to have strong genetics as his father Jim Bob played football in Auburn – he is the Geneva County football coach – while mum Karie played softball for the Tigers. Both have coached their only child throughout his career.
“It wasn’t difficult to train her,” said Karie, the Geneva County women’s basketball coach, while Jim Bob is an assistant. “She was always receptive to anything asked. I’ve always been harder on her than any other kid and the rest of the team thrived on her.
“She has always been a leader and she was like my second coach on the pitch. She is vocal, she is happy and not in a bad mood. These are the things that attract Karoline, the intangibles that I see when I look at her.
When Striplin was 3, doctors told her parents she would be at least 6 feet, possibly 6-1, by the time she was 16. Striplin grew to 6 feet at the age of 12.
Her first sport was T-ball at a young age, but her parents also enrolled Striplin in dance classes that included ballet, jazz, and musical theater around the age of 7. working in particular on stability and balance for the big youngster.
The gregarious Striplin laughs easily as he remembers the lessons, especially a stage production of “Footloose”.
“I could have had it as a singing part,” Striplin said. “But it was fun.”
The growing Striplin played a variety of sports including softball, volleyball, track and field and basketball.
It was obvious early on that Striplin’s future was in basketball.
His first recreational league basketball came in Enterprise while Jim Bob was New Brockton’s football coach. Striplin was invited to play for the men’s team and was selected to the all-star team that won his district.
“I knew I loved basketball better than anything else,” Striplin said. “I play recess a lot and in so many great teams with so many great friendships. In high school we won the state championship when I was in eighth and doing like that really kindled a spark under me. I realized basketball was something I could be good at and take to the next level.
The 2017 Class 2A State Championship was the first and only one for the Bulldogs, who were led in the title game by the MVP Striplin of the tournament as the eighth grader, coming off the bench. She scored 11 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked seven shots in the title game.
Striplin continued to progress on the pitch.
Karie said players are growing mentally from year one to year two with maturity and skills coming together as a junior. Striplin took that a step further as a senior.
“I think this year Karoline has given a lot of thought on the pitch,” said Karie. “His thought process had been in the moment in the past, but this year it was very instinctive to know what to do. She was three steps ahead of the player in front of her. She has really improved as a player.
Striplin ended his career with 2,914 points and 2,043 rebounds, only the third player to record more than 2,000 career points and rebounds, according to the AHSAA’s record books.
The relationship with Hodges continued as the former Indiana State coach attended a game and remains in touch.
Hodges’ Larry Bird compliment prompted Striplin to discover the Indiana State and Boston Celtics star and she became a fan. The family even visited Bird’s hometown of French Lick, Ind.
Striplin watched a lot of old Celtics videos during the COVID-19 shutdown last spring. Bird was at the center of his preoccupations, especially his dazzling range of passes.
“I worked really hard to be successful this year,” said Striplin. “I don’t know if my teammates were ready for this, but I wanted to go out and do Larry Bird type passes. There have definitely been a couple of times this year that I’ve done a few of these fancy passes. It was really cool to do that.
College offerings were plentiful, 28 in total, including SEC Schools Auburn, Florida, Missouri, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt as well as Oregon, UCLA and more.
There is a certain symmetry in his choice of university in Tennessee. The Flights are coached by Kellie Harper while her husband Jon serves as an assistant, as are Karie and Jim Bob training Karoline.
“When you’re a young girl growing up watching basketball, Tennessee and UConn are the names you think of and it struck me,” Striplin said. “Coach Kellie Harper played for Pat Summit so this is a great opportunity for me to play for her. When I walked around campus I felt right at home, everyone was so welcoming.
“Coach Kellie and Coach Jon Harper are husband and wife and I think it will be cool to make the transition to that.”
MISS BASKETBALL OF ALL TIME
2021: Karoline Striplin, County of Geneva
2020: Sarah Ashlee Barker, Parc d’Espagne
2019: Annie Hughes, Pisgah
2018: Zipporah Broughton, Lee-Montgomery
2017: Bianca Jackson, Brewbaker Tech
2016: Jasmine Walker, Jeff Davis
2015: Shaquera Wade, Huntsville
2014: Shakayla Thomas, Sylacauga
2013: Marqu’es Webb, Hoover
2012: Jasmine Jones, Bob Jones
2011: Hayden Hamby, West Morgan
2010: Kaneisha Horn, Ramsay
2009: Jala Harris, Bob Jones
2008: Courtney Jones, Midfielder
2007: Katherine Graham, Ramsay
2006: Shanavia Dowdell, Calera
2005: Whitney Boddie, Florence
2004: Starr Orr, Speake
2003: Sidney Spencer, vacuum cleaner
2002: Kate Mastin, Boaz
2001: Donyel Wheeler, Huffman
2000: Natasha Thomas, Lawrence County
1999: Tasheika Morris, butler
1998: Gwen Jackson, Eufaula
1997: April Nance, butler
1996: Nicole Carruth, Sulligent
1995: Heather Mayes, Fyffe
1994: Pam Duncan, Carrollton
1993: Leah Monteith, Cherokee County
1992: Yolanda Watkins, Decatur
1991: Tonya Tice, Hamilton
1990: Karen Killen, Mars Hill Bible
1989: Leslie Claybrook, Saint-James
1988: Jeaniece Slater, Hartselle