Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Karpowicz suits up with Global Sports Academy team in Croatia
Summer is a time for college students to get a little bit of vacation time in — even for athletes. Take Matt Karpowicz for example
The rising senior center on Kevin App's Williams College men's basketball team spent part of August with a select team from the Global Sports Academy, playing games and touring Croatia.
"We went 3-1," Karpowicz said. "We lost the first game by four. We were down two with 15 seconds left, and I don't say this as an excuse, but there was some questionable scoreboard operation, that led some of us to believe that we had more points than was indicated on the scoreboard.
"We lost that game, and then we won the next three."
Karpowicz and his Global Sports Academy teammates played games in Split, Trogir, Dubrovnik and Zadar in Croatia. The GSA program was the same program that former Eph Dan Aronowicz took advantage of heading into his senior season.
The club was coached by Bucknell assistant Joe Meehan, and Meehan brought along two of his players, Walter Ellis and Xander Rice. The 10-member squad had three Division I players, four Division II players and three — including Karpowicz — from Division III. One of Karpowicz's teammates was Brad Calipari, of the University of Kentucky Caliparis. Xander Rice is the son of current Monmouth University coach, and former North Carolina guard King Rice. Ellis is the son of ESPN analyst, former Notre Dame player and 11-year NBA veteran LaPhonso Ellis.
It might sound pretty random for Karpowicz to end up on this team, but it's all part of the Six Degrees of Basketball game.
Meehan worked at Division III Randolph-Macon in Virginia when current Bucknell coach Nathan Davis was there. While at Randolph-Macon, Meehan got to know former Williams assistant Justin Bradley, who is now at Division I Dartmouth but had come from D-III Guilford, where he coached and played.
"When he was down there, he got to meet our former assistant, Justin Bradley. He's a North Carolina guy who played at Guilford," Karpowicz said. "He knew Justin and had reached out to Justin saying 'I'm looking for bunch of Division III guys. We're putting a team together. He passed along his information to Coach App.
"I had told Coach App before that I had an interest in going on a trip like this."
The squad was in Europe for eight days and played those four games. They also had a chance to do some community service and some tourism.
As to the basketball, Karpowicz said that he didn't have to play in a system that was unknown.
"We played somewhat similar to how we play at Williams, roughly the Princeton [offense]," he said. "A lot of times the offense would be that the point guard would push it up, drop it off to me and I would just pick and roll or hand it off to one of the wings at the top of the key. We shot a lot of threes."
Karpowicz will be in Williamstown shortly as the fall semester of his senior year begins. Karpowicz, Henry Feinberg and Mickey Babek are the three seniors that App will be depending on this winter.
For his part, Karpowicz said that playing in Europe this summer fine-tuned his game for the winter.
"The obvious answer is just getting that extra competition," Karpowicz said when we spoke last week. "We played really hard in those games. They were pretty intense. The teams we were playing really wanted to beat us. They didn't want to let us come over here and roll over them. Just to have four games in five days of high intensity, I think any time you can get that in the offseason it's great. For me, it accelerated my offseason.
"We're coming back to school a week in August instead of the first week of September. I wanted to be game-ready and in game-shape, and I think I got as close as I could."
It also gave Karpowicz a chance to do something that doesn't always happen in Division III basketball.
"It was actually really cool for me, because all the other teams' best players were usually the bigs," he said. "They were every bit as skilled as people tell you the European bigs are. So every game, our guards and wings were going up against guys they had a physical advantage [against]. I would be going up against [6 feet, 10 inches], 6-11, 270-pound guys. That was kind of a different physicality."
Playing those kind of guys will also help him as he and the Ephs prepare for their first official practice on Nov. 1.
For his part, the Eph center said that it's not November that he's looking forward to.
"To be perfectly honest with you, it's going to sound like a cliche, but I'm not thinking about Nov. 1 as much as I am thinking about Sept. 1," he said. "I think the fall is a really exciting time, and I think it'll be really exciting. We lose six guys, but we bring in five new ones. Everything is going to look a lot different. I think it's going to be really exciting.
"You grow to love that two months before you get on the court officially, where you're playing pickup, you're lifting, you're going through the early Saturday mornings together. That's what I'm really excited about."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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