To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around. Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Nebraska-Omaha C John Karhoff about playing for his hometown team.
You are one of five seniors on the roster and you return four starters from last year. How big a factor do you think your team’s experience will be this season? It will be really important for us. I like the group we have coming back. It is exciting to go into practice because last year we had a lot of new faces coming in and it took us awhile to gel. We started to play well in the second half of the season after getting comfortable with each other.
You do not have any players taller than 6’8” and you were outrebounded by almost eight boards per game last year. What is your team’s strategy for matching up with bigger opponents? That is definitely an area we need to address and get better at. We have more depth in the post than we did last year, but we do not have a 6’11” guy who can eat everything up, so we have to concentrate on team rebounding.
Your scoring and rebounding both decreased from your freshman to your sophomore year. How do you plan on improving your stats this year? A lot of that is from playing a full Division I schedule last year after playing a bunch of Division II teams as a freshman. We all know what to expect now. I am not as concerned about my scoring, but I need to improve my rebounding without forcing anything.
Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Iowa, UNLV, and Minnesota. Which of those games do you feel will present your biggest test? Iowa will probably be a top-25 team from a good conference, so I look forward to playing a Midwest school that I followed while growing up. All three will be big tests, but it will be a nice challenge for us.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? I expect us to be in the top half of the Summit, which is not far-fetched based on the guys we have coming back. I think we can compete for a regular-season title and if we get off to a good start hopefully we can end up playing in the CBI or CIT.
You grew up in Omaha; How special is it to get to play for the hometown team? It is pretty special to play here. My high school is less than a mile from our campus, so it is nice for my family and friends to be able to come to every home game. I am going into my last year so I will have to soak it in this season.
Derrin Hansen is about to begin his ninth year as head coach at Nebraska-Omaha. What makes him such a good coach and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him? He trusts his players because he is a “players’ coach”. He does not have a stranglehold over us and is not afraid to let us make our own mistakes, but he will let us know if we are doing something wrong without making us feel like he is looking over our shoulders. One thing he taught me that has stuck with me throughout my career is that the best teams are player-driven rather than coach-driven because the coach can only take you so far. I have been trying to work on that and my teammates are also taking that to heart.
Your team made the leap from Division II to Division I in 2011. What is the biggest difference between the two levels? I was here for the entire transition. I had my doubts going into it because at that time I just wanted to compete for championships, but looking back I am glad we did it. We were in a top Division II conference (the MIAA), but moving up has been great. Now we get to play against top-level athletes and visit a bunch of nice places all over the country. We have been out to California and down to Texas, but my favorite trip was a couple of years ago to play in a tourney in Seattle. It was cool to see a part of the country that I would not have been able to go to otherwise.