Some of my first memories of basketball involve watching with my grandpa, Shelly Karras. He’s a University of Illinois graduate and a big fan. He’d take me to games when the Fighting Illini were good, when Dee Brown and Deron Williams were on the team. I was only 8 years old, but I remember how much I liked watching them, how much I loved the atmosphere. That I may one day play in front of crowds that size was beyond what I was thinking then.
I started to play organized basketball for a Lake Forest recreation league team in the fifth grade. In the seventh grade, my dad started taking me to Lake Forest High School games. The Scouts had a shooting guard named Matt Vogrich. He earned a scholarship to Michigan and became the school’s all-time leading scorer. That’s when I really started to see basketball as part of my future.
I joined an AAU team — Next Level Performance — for the first time while I was a student at Deerpath Middle School. I began to work with the coaches who helped shape the player I am today. Matt’s dad, Bob, taught me about shot mechanics. Lynn Mitchem showed me how to create my own shot. Brad Johnstin introduced ball-handling drills I never would have learned on my own. I became aware of how many other people showed interest in my basketball career. It motivated me to keep working, to keep getting better.
By my sophomore year of high school, I was with Fundamental U, a new AAU program started by coach Michael Weinstein. He refined my mechanics, allowing me to get lots of shots up and build consistency. My junior year at Lake Forest (in 2013-14), I made the varsity and led the team in three-point shooting percentage. In June of this year, I received my first Division I offer, from UIC. I had come a long way from watching the Fighting Illini with my grandpa as a young boy.