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Archive for Thursday, March 26, 1998

HARTSOCK COLUMN

March 26, 1998

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I wish I had the magic to do this right. I wish I could answer the questions that linger after the death, police say of a self-inflicted gunshot, of Jennifer Trapp.

How? Why?

I can't.

I can't answer those questions, nor, perhaps, can anybody.

Trapp, a former Lawrence High and Kansas University basketball player, apparently ended her life Wednesday at 23, and today a community mourns.

Perhaps you've never heard of Jennifer Trapp. Maybe you've never met her.

That's unfortunate.

I covered Jennifer Trapp when she was a three-sport standout at Lawrence High, and I covered her for four years on the KU women's basketball team.

I've seen better players, and I will again. I wish I could say she was the best I've ever seen, but she wasn't.

I can say I've rarely seen anyone work harder than I saw Jennifer Trapp work.

She was the best prep basketball player in the state back in 1993, and though she was omitted from everybody's all-state lists, she was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year.

When she signed with KU, I wrongly assumed, despite her obvious high school talents, she would languish on the bench for a few years and gradually fade away.

I must have forgotten about the work ethic.

See, Trapp, at 6-foot-1, dominated the high school game, but I couldn't project her talents at the next level, where everyone's taller and faster and, quite frankly, better.

But Trapp worked on her game and started as a freshman. And as a sophomore and junior and senior.

By the end of her KU career, Trapp had played in 122 games -- fourth all-time on the school charts -- and had started 121.

She went on to play pro ball in Europe for two seasons -- where she was her league's leading scorer both years, I'm told -- and hoped to play in one of the United States' two pro leagues.

I know this because I sat next to her agent during a banquet Tuesday night in honor of Marian Washington's 25th season as KU's head coach.

The agent's name was Mike. I can't recall his last name, and now it doesn't seem so important.

I saw Jennifer sitting a few tables over and asked Mike about her.

He said Jennifer had had a successful second European season, that the general manager of her team had sent a glowing recommendation to the WNBA, that she hoped to play in the United States next season, that her European league was hoping she'd catch on. Mike was excited. Jennifer, he said, was excited.

A few hours later, she was dead.

I wish I could tell you something about Jennifer Trapp.

I covered her for seven seasons.

I interviewed her back in 1992, when the Lions won the Class 6A state basketball tournament, and she laughed and joked and jumped for joy.

I talked to her in 1993, when the Lions lost in the state championship game. She cried.

I talked to her when she committed to KU, and countless times thereafter. No matter how big the win or how devastating the loss, Jennifer Trapp put aside her joy and her hurt and talked.

We spoke again when she signed with her first pro team, in Luxembourg, and we exchanged pleasantries Tuesday night, the last night of her too-short life.

I wish I could tell you more about Jennifer Trapp.

I wish I could tell you about her competitiveness. I wish I could tell you how she fought through double- and triple-teams in high school and still managed to average around 15 points and seven rebounds a game.

I wish I could tell you how Jennifer Trapp made herself into a solid college basketball player and, eventually, a pro.

I wish I could explain how, when last season Washington said that, despite the presence of All-American Tamecka Dixon and all-time KU three-pointer leader Angie Halbleib, Jennifer Trapp was KU's glue, I understood just what she was saying. And agreed.

I wish I could do Jennifer Trapp justice.

I wish I could make those who never met Jennifer Trapp know her as more than the victim of her own hand.

Yes, I wish I had the magic to do this right ... and I wish I didn't have to at all.

-- Andrew Hartsock's phone number is 832-7216. His e-mail address is hartsock@ljworld.com.

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