Karl has grown into Broncos’ leader
Coby Karl talks a lot about opportunities.
UH Vs. Boise State
When: Today, 7:05 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: Live, KKEA 1420-AM
Internet: audio, Sportsradio1420.com; video, hawaiiantelmedia.com
Tickets: $22 (lower level-single seats only), $18 (upper level-adult), $5 (upper-students), $3 (upper-UH students), $5 (Super Rooter/Manoa Maniacs)
Karl, the son of veteran NBA coach George Karl, had the opportunity to hang out with professional ballplayers growing up. As a former walk-on, the Boise State guard has made the most of his chance to develop into the Broncos' featured scorer and an all-conference candidate.
Lately, he's had the chance to impact the outcome of Boise State's games in the closing minutes.
"I think that's what everyone dreams about when you're younger, getting the ball in the final seconds, and it's been great for me to have the opportunity to get the ball," Karl said. "It's a great feeling to have (his teammates) trust me, and fortunately I've been able to convert on a couple of opportunities."
Such an occasion arose late in the Broncos' game against San Jose State last Thursday.
Boise State had let a 16-point lead slip away and trailed 63-59 with less than 3 minutes left. Karl, whose struggles that night had earned him a spot on the bench, re-entered the game and proceeded to score nine points down the stretch to lift the Broncos to a 68-65 win.
"I think everybody needs a go-to guy and a guy to be a leader on your team, and he's definitely ours and he's done a good job," Boise State coach Greg Graham said. "He had a tough game on Thursday, but in the last 2 minutes he scored the last nine points and pulled it out of the fire for us."
Karl figures to be a focal point again tonight when Boise State (9-7, 2-3 Western Athletic Conference) visits the Stan Sheriff Center for a game against Hawaii (9-6, 3-2).
The 6-foot-4 junior leads Boise State in scoring (15.8 points per game) and assists (68) and is also tied for first in rebounding with 4.9 per game.
Known primarily as a dangerous outside shooter early in his career, Karl has made a team-high 36 3-point shots this season. But he now looks to drive to the basket as well, which has resulted in 84 trips to the line for the WAC's leading free-throw shooter (85.7 percent).
"He's there for them down the stretch, he's a gamer," Hawaii coach Riley Wallace said. "He's a good jump-shooter, but he's strong and he'll go to the basket. He forces the action."
Karl grew up around the game, hanging out with his father's teams as a youngster.
Despite a hectic NBA schedule, Karl said his father, now the Denver Nuggets head coach, has been able to attend a few of Boise State's games this season, sometimes flying in right after finishing practice with the Nuggets.
"I've been around the best players in the world almost my whole life, whether it's in the CBA, NBA or overseas," Karl said. "It's given me a lot of opportunities that a lot of kids don't have, a chance to be around those guys and basketball at that high of a level."
Karl said having a prominent father hasn't put more pressure on his shoulders on the court.
"My dad supports me, my mom's going to love me no matter what," he said. "It's good to have a mind like his to help when I have questions."
Karl walked on at Boise State after graduating from Homestead High School in Wisconsin and redshirted his first year of college. He worked his way into the starting lineup as a freshman and averaged 9.4 points.
He then started all 34 games last season and boosted his production to 12.7 points as a sophomore before being named to the preseason All-WAC second-team this season.
"My freshman year I was more of a role player; last year I had to be a little more of a scorer," Karl said. "This year, I get to do a lot of other things that I enjoy."
Hawaii guard Deonte Tatum played against Karl as a prep guard at Milwaukee's Vincent High School and in summer games back in Wisconsin.
"He's improved a lot, gotten a lot better," Tatum said. "He's grown a lot since high school, got a lot stronger. He could shoot the ball then, but he's gotten a lot stronger."
Karl also has distinct memories of facing Tatum during his junior year.
"He was a senior with about four or five D-I guys on his team," Karl recalled. "They taught us a pretty good lesson. He was pretty spectacular in high school."
Race to 1,000: Both Karl and UH forward Julian Sensley are closing in on the 1,000-point mark entering tonight's game. Sensley needs eight points to reach the milestone after scoring 21 against Fresno State on Saturday. Karl is seven points away from 1,000.
Zoned in: Although the Rainbows relied on a 1-2-2 zone in Saturday's 73-65 win over Fresno State, the strategy didn't signal a change in Wallace's philosophy.
The 19th-year UH coach has rarely gone to a zone in his career and maintained after the game that the Rainbows are still a man-to-man team. But having a serviceable zone offers UH another option and might give opponents something else to think about in preparing for the 'Bows.
"Having two weapons is better than having one," UH forward Ahmet Gueye said.