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June 1, 2012

Anderson traverses bumpy path to RMU

There were any number of times where Karvel Anderson could have given up his dream of playing Division I basketball and those around him would have understood.

His father gone and his mother in jail since he was a freshman in high school, those around him would have understood if he dropped basketball and went to work after graduating in 2009 from Elkhart Memorial High School in Elkhart, Indiana. They would have understood if he only played junior college or Division II ball after leaving Butler Community College in Kansas.

And they would have understood if his career peaked without a shot at Division I, all because of a broken wrist on his shooting hand as his sophomore season at Glen Oaks Community College began.

Anderson never accepted any of those potential detours. With the clearance of one last hurdle - finalizing his graduation from Glen Oaks - he'll be pursuing his dream of being a Division I guard at Robert Morris in the fall. He signed his National Letter of Intent in April.

"I always felt, athletically, that I could play Division I basketball," Anderson said. "My academics were what held me back."

Life tried to hold him back, too. Staying with his grandparents through high school, Anderson committed to Glen Oaks after a strong showing on senior night. Then Butler Community College came knocking, a powerhouse in the junior college ranks, and Anderson went for the higher profile opportunity.

"Life happened, and it didn't really work out for me, so I ended up moving back (to Elkhart)," he said.

Anderson didn't complete his second semester in Kansas. He kept in touch with Glen Oaks coach Steve Proefrock and sat out his sophomore year, working on his academics. But he thought his dream of going D-I was gone.

"After I left Kansas, I thought Division I was in the past," he said. "I thought it was over."

Proefrock had an opening and Anderson took it. As the fall semester went on, he slowly felt his confidence grow. Then life intervened again, this time handing him a broken wrist on his shooting hand just before Glen Oaks' season began.

"I thought it was just a sprain or something, something minor," Anderson said.

It wasn't. Anderson tried to play through it in practice, but it kept swelling and forced him to the hospital. The bone connecting his thumb and wrist was broken and required two screws to be surgically implanted. He was finally cleared to play a few days after Glen Oaks played its first game.

Playing time wouldn't be an issue - Glen Oaks lost two other guards - but Anderson's readiness would be.

"Our team was in dire need for me to come back to play. I knew I was going to get to play, but I didn't have medical insurance so I couldn't get rehab," he said. "At that point, shooting was the best aspect of my game and I didn't think I'd be able to produce like I used to and I was a little discouraged."

Anderson didn't rehab his wrist outside of working on a few exercises with his coaching staff. He scored 25 points in the first half of his first game back, but then his wrist locked up in the second half and he didn't score again. He returned to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed his issue.

"The screws were chipping at the bones in my wrist," Anderson said. "I just thought I'd make it through the year and it was going to be over with."

He played through the pain, pumping himself full of medication just to be able to take jump shots. It took two weeks for him to make a shot that didn't require a friendly bounce off the rim to go in. He found a way to save the pain in his wrist by doing all of his drills in practice and in warm-ups with his left hand.

"I never once used my right hand. I spent all season practicing with my left hand in practice. The only time I used my right hand was in games," Anderson said.

But Anderson never stopped. He stayed overnight in the gym, sometimes with a teammate for company, so he could get his touch back.

"I honestly cannot tell you what it was. Something just with me that I just couldn't stop," he said. "I was just too used to being able to shoot the ball. That was the one thing that I knew I was really good at. I was used to be able to score the ball, and not being able to do what I was used to doing was just frustrating. It annoyed me."

Even with the bad wrist, Anderson was putting up impressive numbers, scoring 24.9 points per game while shooting 43 percent from beyond the three-point line. His numbers should have generated Division I interest, but the only attention he could get was from Division II schools in the competitive GLIAC conference and some NAIA schools.

Then Robert Morris entered the picture.

"I don't really know how coach (Mike) Byrnes at Robert Morris found me," Anderson said.

The only explanation Anderson can think of a bit of "Six Degrees of Steve Proefrock". The Glen Oaks coach knew some of the coaching staff at Virginia Tech, so he sent a tape of Anderson to the Hokies. Byrnes has ties to that staff, and Anderson thinks that's how his tape ended up in Moon Township.

With Anderson on his radar, Andrew Toole began working on him. He was the first on the staff to contact Anderson, something that caught the guard by surprise.

"Initially it was all Coach Toole, and once that happened, I was sold. Before my visit, before anything, the head coach at a very good Division I program was talking to me," he said. "Even at the Division II schools, all I heard from was the assistants."

Anderson was familiar with Robert Morris in name only, but here was a Division I school interested in him. The Colonials arranged an official visit, and things were looking up for Anderson's Division I dreams. Then life tried to intervene again.

On a Thursday morning, Anderson was driving to the airport to make his flight to Pittsburgh when he was involved in an accident that sent him to the hospital. Anderson couldn't believe his lack of luck.

"We were hit by a drunk driver. At 8:30 in the morning. Who's drunk at 8:30 in the morning?" Anderson said, the disbelief still evident in his voice months later.

He was panicking. By the time he got out of the hospital, his flight was gone. He was scared to call Toole, tell him what happened. He thought it was all over once again.

"I was like, 'God, I finally got a chance and I'm about to lose my opportunity because of some idiot driving," Anderson said.

He called Toole and the coach understood, working with the airport to get Anderson another ticket on another flight. Toole still wanted to see Anderson in Moon.

"My flight was at like 4:30 in the morning, so I didn't even go to sleep the night before," Anderson said.

He scoped out the campus, met with the team, and did the standard official visit college tour. For the first time, everything finally went well for Anderson. He liked the campus, liked the coaches, and saw a chemistry with his potential new teammates. He committed and signed his letter of intent.

Now he has just a few classes, the final steps in getting his shot. There's one other thing Anderson has to do. On Friday morning, June 1, he has to go back to the doctor to get his screws out of his wrist.

"That's a big thing for me, so I'll actually be able to rehab and get my body stronger like I need to. I can't do some of the workouts that I need to do with these screws in my wrist," Anderson said. "I'm just making sure I graduate and getting my body right so I can handle this Division I basketball."

ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com.

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