The surname Stipanovich is synonymous with basketball because of the success Steve Stipanovich had during his hoops career.

Steve, a St. Louis native, was drafted second overall by Indiana in the 1983 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-11 center played five seasons for the Pacers before knee problems forced him to retire in 1988. He averaged 13.2 points and 7.8 rebounds during his professional career.

Prior to his stint in the NBA, Steve starred at the University of Missouri and De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis. At De Smet, Steve led the Spartans to 60 consecutive wins and two straight state championships.

It would only make sense, then, that Steve’s six children – with their height and athletic bloodline – would also be standouts on the court.

To no one’s surprise, they have been. Except it hasn’t always been on the basketball court.

“I have a healthy perspective on sports because I played so much,” Steve, 53, said. “I wasn’t one of these parents that was just really into my kids’ sports. If they showed an interest, I would help them. And they showed an interest in volleyball.”

Steve’s two oldest daughters, Katie and Kelli, played volleyball together at Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis. Kelli went on to play four years at the University of Arkansas, where she earned All-SEC recognition.

Steve’s fourth child, Hannah, was one of the area’s leaders in kills and aces per set during her recently completed senior season at Clayton High School in St. Louis.

And then there’s Steve’s third child, Sadie, a freshman business major at Saint Louis University. Sadie participated in select basketball in grade school before switching to club volleyball as a sixth-grader. She played select volleyball all the way through her freshman year at Westminster.

The following year, Sadie began to realize she didn’t love volleyball as much as the sport that made her father famous. Coincidentally and inadvertently, it was Steve – who was hired as Westminster’s girls’ basketball coach prior to Sadie’s sophomore season – who ignited her newfound passion for basketball.

“My sophomore year my dad became the varsity coach, and that’s what made me fall in love with basketball – seeing his love for the game,” Sadie said. “Him sharing that with me, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I like basketball a lot more.’”

Steve wasn’t trying to influence his daughter’s choice of a primary sport when he became Westminster’s coach. In fact, he noted that “sports is way down on the list of importance to me,” a sentiment perhaps considered surprising for a former professional athlete to express. The message got through to his children, however, who understood they could play whatever sports they wanted to play, or none at all.

“My dad never put any pressure on me to be an athlete,” Sadie said. “When you play so many years, you get perspective that there’s more to life than basketball. He’s so good at sending that message to his kids.

“For me, in high school, I always wanted to succeed so much,” Sadie continued. “If I had a bad game, I would beat myself up. He encouraged me to not do that, because he knows that’s not everything. That’s not what defines me as a person.”

Sadie Becomes a Billiken

With Steve at the helm and Sadie as the anchor, Westminster went 65-20 during Sadie’s three seasons. Riding Sadie’s strong post play, the Wildcats advanced to their first-ever state final four during her junior campaign.

Following that season, Sadie joined a local AAU basketball team to gain attention from college coaches. Lisa Stone, who was hired as the Saint Louis University women’s basketball head coach in May 2012, got her first glimpse of Sadie during a recruiting trip to Texas in July 2012.

“Right away, she drew my eye,” Stone said. “She comes from obviously a tremendous heritage and wonderful morals and great family. Everything I look for in a player, Sadie has.”

Though Sadie has lived in St. Louis her entire life, she had never stepped foot on SLU’s campus. When she did so for the first time during an unofficial visit, she knew Saint Louis would be her college destination. Sadie committed to SLU in the fall of 2012.

“I feel like God really led me to go here: ‘Sadie, I’m showing you this perfect option. This is what you want.’ God was just showing me the right path to go. It was so obvious,” she said.

“I just feel so at home here already. Every college student has that adjustment period where it’s, ‘Oh, I’m away from home. This is weird. I’m on my own.’ I feel like my adjustment period went by like that,” Sadie said with the snap of her fingers. “I love it so much. I know I’m going to be here all four years and have a really great experience.”

Sadie’s Successful First Season

Sadie already has made a significant impact for the Billikens. The 6-foot-3 center has started all 16 games and is averaging more than 24 minutes of playing time. Her 8.3 points per game rank third on the team, while her 7.3 rebounds per game and 14 blocks are team highs.

Stone is very pleased with Sadie’s on-court production. But what’s more impressive to the head coach is Sadie’s team-first, selfless mentality.

“She’s a great teammate. That is, by far, Sadie’s best asset,” Stone said. “It’s not about Sadie. It’s about our team being successful. If our team needs Sadie to have a double-double every game to be successful, she’ll do that. If they need her just to lock down on defense, block shots and rebound, she’ll do that.

“I was hired here to change the culture of the program, and it’s already changing,” Stone continued. “It’s changing because of the quality of people we’re recruiting. And this is the picture-perfect kid – good person, good student, great player. Her upside is tremendous. Obviously, there’s more ahead for Sadie.”

Fans watching the Billikens might do a double take when they see Sadie playing for the first time, and that’s not just because of her well-known last name. Sadie wears No. 40 for SLU, the same number her father wore during his playing days.

“The No. 40 was an option in high school. It’s been my thing ever since,” Sadie said. “For me, I just look up to my dad in that way. I have a lot of respect for him. It’s cool that he’s the one who taught me to play basketball. So, why not put that number on my jersey and share that with him?”

Written by Josh Sellmeyer, Saint Louis sports information assistant.