ELKHART — Agony and ecstasy. Karvel Anderson got his fill of each on the same night this past week.
Sort of like some other moments in his life.
While he and the Robert Morris University Colonials were rocking the college basketball world with their 59-57 first-round NIT victory over defending national champion Kentucky on Tuesday, March 19, pain was rocking Anderson’s shooting wrist.
“It’s different from day to day, but (on a pain scale of one to 10), it was like a nine all during the game,” Anderson said of a broken right wrist he has tried to stay low-key about.
“It affected my shot,” Anderson acknowledged by phone. “Every time I tried to do something, it locked up. I almost couldn’t move my hand.”
Anderson — a 2009 Elkhart Memorial graduate who remains the balanced Colonials’ leading scorer on the season at 12.3 despite having suffered the injury six weeks ago while diving for a loose ball, and is at Robert Morris foremost because of his shooting prowess — went 0-of-5 from the field and finished with just two points on 2-of-2 at the line. However, he added two steals and two slick assists during his 23 minutes off the bench.
He and RMU (24-10) earned a second-round matchup against Providence (18-14) of the Big East at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 26. ESPNews is scheduled to televise the game.
Regardless of what happens in that contest, it might be impossible to top what happened by virtue of the nationally televised win over Kentucky.
That opportunity, ironically enough, only came about because the favored Colonials failed to win the Northeast Conference Tournament title that would’ve given them an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve all asked each other that question a few times,” Anderson said of whether he’d rather have been in the NCAA Tournament than experienced the win over Kentucky, “but I can definitely say this win is the greatest moment I’ve had in my life. I think of it like this — we did something for our school and our program that’s going to be remembered forever.”
And Anderson doesn’t mind doing that for this school, tucked away in Moon Township, Pa., near Pittsburgh.
“I’ve found a home,” Anderson said of something he’s not always been able to take for granted literally, never mind figuratively. “I knew when I came to visit, it was a special place,” he said of RMU. “It’s just a tight-knit family.”
Anderson hasn’t been able to take family for granted, either.
He’s never met his father, and part of his high school days included becoming estranged from his mother, even before she was arrested on drug charges in 2008 and spent parts of the next few years in jail.
That’s why Anderson walked unattended by parents during Senior Night ceremonies back in high school — before scoring a school-record 46 points the same evening.
After his mom went to jail, as he told The Elkhart Truth in 2009, he was left to care, along with his grandparents, for his two younger sisters.
Anderson lived part of the time with his grandparents — his grandfather worked two jobs and his grandmother was ill — and part of the time with mentors like Jerel Jackson and Doug Keck of Elkhart. But he never stayed in one place long because he “didn’t want to impose.”
Anderson told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in January that he even lived for a time under a bridge near McNaughton Park and once stole a blanket from a store.
“Things are going really well now,” Anderson said this past week. “My mom was released from jail in 2011 and is doing much better, and taking care of my youngest sister (in seventh grade). Both my sisters are doing very well. Mylikea goes to school at Shaw (University in Raleigh, N.C.). When we played at Campbell, she was only 30 minutes from there, so she was able to come to that game.”
His mom attended an early-season game at Xavier in Cincinnati, and his mom and both sisters were able to attend an RMU late-season home game together.
Anderson himself is attending his fourth college. He originally went to and played at Butler Community in El Dorado, Kan., before redshirting for a year while attending Lake Michigan in Benton Harbor, Mich., then winding up last season at Glen Oaks Community in Centreville, Mich.
Though he averaged 24.9 points for the Vikings, including a 54-point game, despite also suffering a broken shooting wrist a few weeks before last season, he didn’t attract much Division I interest. Anderson figures that was more because of a history of academic struggles than on-court ones, but all he wanted was just one school to give him a chance, and RMU provided it.
“I take (academics) a little more seriously now,” Anderson said. “They’re going really good. The first semester I had a 3.0 (grade point average) and this semester is going well. The support here when it come to academics is something special.”
Anderson will have another season of eligibility after this one, and says he is on track to graduate following summer classes in 2014. He’s majoring in communications.
More immediately, he’ll undergo surgery on that wrist soon after this season ends.
The “three or four days” leading up to the Kentucky game marked the first time since Anderson sustained the injury Feb. 9 against Wagner that he engaged in the full-contact portion of practices.
In hindsight, “I kind of beat it up doing that,” said Anderson, who wears a soft cast when not playing, “so I think now we’re going to go with more rest.”
The Kentucky contest and one other one aside, Anderson’s shooting numbers haven’t dipped since the injury. Overall on the season, to go with that 12.3 points per game, he’s made 78-of-180 on 3-pointers for 43.3 percent and is 43-of-51 at the line for 84.3 percent. Both percentages lead the Colonials. The 6-foot-2 guard is also contributing 2.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.8 steals in 25.0 minutes per outing.
“I don’t plan on us losing anytime soon, so the surgery’s not scheduled,” Anderson said. “But it will probably be within a week of whenever our last game is. But I just want to keep playing. We were very disappointed when we lost in the conference tournament, but when we found out we were playing Kentucky, it was a chance to redeem ourselves.”
And those are the kinds of chances Karvel Anderson doesn’t take lightly.