When Indiana offered class of 2022 forward Alex Karaban last March, he was fresh off a highly productive sophomore campaign that put him firmly on the radar of several high major programs.
With both AAU and school basketball mostly shut down in the Northeast, it was nearly a year before the 6-foot-8, 220 pound Karaban returned to the court for live game action. That finally changed two weeks ago when Karaban and his New Hampton School (New Hampton, N.H.) teammates resumed play in the rugged NEPSAC conference.
After testing for COVID-19 each week, the Huskies are playing home and away weekend series against fellow league foes. This weekend’s opponent is Indiana freshman Jordan Geronimo’s alma mater, St. Paul’s.
Coming off such a long layoff, the Massachusetts-based Karaban is willing to deal with just about anything to keep playing, and that includes wearing a mask on the court, even as he tries to get fully back into game shape.
“It’s not ideal, but if it means we can play games we’ll definitely do it,” Karaban told The Daily Hoosier about his thoughts on wearing a mask while playing.
Karaban has been working out regularly since everything shut down last spring, but it is never easy to simulate live games. That is something he noticed right away when games started back up.
“It’s definitely different not playing a game in a year, but I would say that I’ve been in shape for most of it, it was just weird being in game shape, running up and down with your teammates, that was just different than a workout session,” Karaban said.
Adding to the challenge, Karaban is carrying a little bit more weight up and down the court these days. It’s not bad weight. Like many players, he found positives in the down time. In his case that meant hitting the weight room and adding more size and strength to his frame.
“If it weren’t for the break I definitely would not be as strong because that was the time where I was able to get stronger and work on my body especially,” he said.
Things are coming together well thus far for Karaban as his delayed junior season of school ball ramps up. He is averaging 22 points per game and New Hampton is off to a 4-0 start. If that school sounds familiar, there is a good reason. Indiana has a long history with the New Hampshire prep school.
In addition to class of 2013 Tom Crean recruit Noah Vonleh, Pat Knight ’90, Steve Hart ’93, Tom Coverdale ’99, and current IU assistant Mike Roberts ’00 all attended New Hampton before playing at Indiana.
Roberts is the lead assistant for IU with Karaban, and the fact that the coach can connect with the recruit on a personal level about New Hampton has meaning.
“It definitely means something to have a coaching staff there who has been to my high school, experienced similar stuff that I’ve been through going here now, playing basketball,” Karaban told The Daily Hoosier.
Roberts and the IU staff have been prioritizing Karaban for a year now, no doubt attracted to his combination of a big frame and inside-out ability. He is a modern, positionless player — the type now in high demand in college basketball. That is certainly Karaban’s take on his strengths as a player.
“I would say I am a very versatile player, I can post up smaller guys and go by bigger guys, shoot the ball and rebound pretty well and use my length on defense,” Karaban said.
That description lines up with what his head coach sees as well.
“His versatility is the most impressive thing,” New Hampton head coach Andrew Gale told The Daily Hoosier. “He has had strong buy-in on the defensive end using his length to guard multiple positions. The way the game is played now, if you watch college basketball any given night, guards are posting up guards, bigs are dribbling out on the perimeter. It is more of a positionless style, and I think Alex really fits that role really well.”
Karaban’s development and college ready style have earned him a 4-star ranking by the 247Sports Composite. He is the No. 74 player in the class of 2022 according to that service. While he isn’t worried about his place in the rankings, there is still plenty that Karaban wants to do to improve his game before he reports to a college campus in around 16 months.
“I want to continue to work on my body, still getting stronger and quicker and all that stuff, ball handling, being better with the ball and shot creating, and then defensively I can always get better,” Karaban said.
Karaban says he talks to both Archie Miller and Mike Roberts regularly. On average he is hearing from someone from IU once or twice a week. He said he “definitely” feels like the Indiana staff is making him a priority right now. The other schools that fall into that category currently are Providence, Creighton, Virginia Tech and Stanford according to Karaban.
A college program’s playing style is an important variable in Karaban’s decision making process, and he has been keeping an eye on Indiana this year.
“I watch as many (Indiana games) as I can just to get a better understanding of their system,” Karaban said
His assessment of the Hoosiers?
“Physical team, sharp on the defensive end, like to play through their big guys especially with Trayce, and just move the ball well and play well together,” Karaban said.
With the NCAA in a dead period going back to last March, recruiting has not been optimal for Karaban. Beyond watching a few practices of Northeast programs a while back, Karaban hasn’t been able to take any visits to this point. His impressions of the schools he is considering right now are based primarily on video conferences. Beyond AAU basketball tournaments, Karaban has never been to Indiana, so his thoughts on life at IU have been formed to this point by what he is seeing on a screen. And so far, so good.
“I’ve seen their (Indiana’s) facilities, and that’s definitely a big part (of the appeal), and their campus lifestyle is definitely something that I can see myself being a part of, it fits me well,” Karaban told The Daily Hoosier.
The NCAA recently announced that it was extending the recruiting dead period through May 31, but Karaban might still be able to get in visits based on his timeline.
“I am planning to cut my list after the EYBL (Nike AAU circuit) if there is an EYBL season, so late summer, and then I am hoping to commit before my senior season,” he said.
When it comes to what factors will ultimately drive Karaban’s college decision, he quickly rattled off four priorities.
“Development is one of them, just getting better throughout my college experience,” Karaban said. “My relationship with the coaching staff, like a relationship that is bigger than basketball. Playing style, something that I could fit in and translate my best assets with whatever program, like a team that likes to play fast, run up and down, shares the ball and generates open shots. And then academics and getting a degree out of all this.”
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