College Sports

What Lehigh transfer James Karnik said about joining the BC basketball team

"They really focus on guys with character along with guys who can play."

James Karnik Boston College Basketball
Former Lehigh big man James Karnik transferred to Boston College. Hannahally Photography

James Karnik became the sixth newcomer to next year’s Boston College men’s basketball team when he transferred from Lehigh in late April.

Karnik joins graduate transfers Rich Kelly from Quinnipiac and Frederick Scott from Rider, transfer Makai Ashton-Langford from Providence, and incoming freshmen DeMarr Langford Jr. and Justin Vander Baan.

Karnik, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound center from Surrey, British Columbia, averaged 12.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and one assist, block, and steal per game this past season. He shot 57 percent from the field and reached double figures in scoring 15 times.

“We are excited to have James join our basketball family at Boston College,” head coach Jim Christian said in a release. “He is a talented, athletic big man with a great feel for the game. He adds high value as another experienced player. I’m looking forward to coaching him.”

Boston.com spoke with Karnik over the phone to learn more about his past, present, and future.

Boston.com: What was it like growing up in British Columbia, and what did you enjoy about the experience?

James Karnik: Basketball as a thing isn’t really that competitive. Not that many people played Division I basketball or even pursue sports as a career or anything like that. Having that aspiration was definitely a lot different. Mostly you see hockey players come out of my area. For the last three or four years, I’ve been the only active Division I player from my city. You don’t really have those driving factors for basketball. The influences that I took for basketball in my life growing up were more people around me who told me things about basketball. My parents saw basketball more as a fun thing to do. They didn’t really see me getting a scholarship out of it. It wasn’t until I was older, when I went to prep schools and stuff, where I actually saw that I could pursue basketball for a scholarship and pursue it for a career. As for where I grew up, it’s a nice city, but there’s lots of rain in the winter. I spent time with my brother and sister. It was fun.

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BDC: How did your prep career prepare you for college hoops?

JK: When I was 15 or 16 years old, I played AAU ball, and I got seen by a prep school called Balboa Prep in San Diego. At the time, I was playing with Deandre Ayton, and they started recruiting me. I went and played there, and that made me start taking basketball more seriously, and I saw what it took to be more competitive with basketball. It showed me my conditioning, the level of play, and how I’d have to take a big jump. I had the mindset that I could hang with these guys and I could get a scholarship from that. I played prep school for a year in San Diego, and then from that, there was a prep school opening up, the first-ever prep school in my province, British Columbia. I knew the coach pretty well, and he asked me if I wanted to start that up, so I helped him start the program. It’s still going on to this day. They’re doing a lot better now. I did that for the first year, and then from that, I played at this other prep school called Orangeville Prep, which has had NBA players like Thon Maker, Jamal Murray, and my buddy Ignas Brazdeikis played there, too. It’s a well-known basketball school. From that, I definitely got a lot more exposure and resources to a lot of training facilities. I got access to a lot of things that helped me with my game.

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BDC: What drew you to Lehigh, what was it like there, and what ultimately made you decide to transfer?

JK: It was a great academic school. They had a position for me to start right away, which was a big point of emphasis for me. With those two things, I thought it was a really good fit. I played my three years there. Coming from that, I realized I had a great experience with my coaches and my teammates. I had so many teammates that were talented players that, but due to issues, whether key players were getting hurt in the playoffs, we weren’t making the run that we were supposed to. In order to get a good contract coming out of Lehigh, you need to perform individually, and you also need a team to win a lot of games, and you also need to go on a playoff run and make it to March Madness. I saw that. I know I’m going to perform, and work my butt off, but there are also other factors. If we don’t win a lot of games, or we don’t make a run in the playoffs, I don’t want to be in a position where I don’t have good contract opportunities. I decided I wanted to talk to my coaches, and I said it was time to look for a different school that could present me with some contract opportunities.

BDC: How did you choose BC, and what do you know about it?

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JK: They’re in the ACC, which has a lot of competitive teams. I feel like it’s definitely a really good step for me to showcase myself, and it’s a good step to play against competition that I want to play against at the professional level. All around, it looked like a good fit for me to play and showcase my skills and my abilities. I haven’t ever been to the school, and sadly, because of the whole coronavirus situation, I was unable to go on a visit. Impressions that I have, I understand it’s a very academically oriented school. From the basketball program, I understand it’s a tough conference, so it doesn’t always reflect the competitiveness as a program that well at times, but along with the coaching staff, I feel like it’s a very well-knit team. They really focus on guys with character along with guys who can play, too, which is something that I value. In order to be successful, it really helps if you have a team that can get along with each other that has not only their own interests, but also the team’s interests in mind. You can’t have a bunch of dudes who are just looking out for themselves. You also need to look out for the interests of others. I got that vibe that they’re a good coaching staff. I played Boston University, so I’ve seen a little bit of Boston. It seems like a really lovely city, so I thought it would be a great situation for me.

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BDC: Can you describe your style of play? What do you bring to a team? Is there anyone you model your game after or particularly admire?

JK: I’m a really gritty guy. I feel like I’m the type of guy that will get things done. If I need a big stop, or I need a big rebound, I feel like I’m always the type of guy that can get that done. I’ve been told that I’m a very entertaining player to watch because of the energy and passion I bring to the game. I’ve always taken on a leadership role on teams I’ve played. I was a captain my last year at Lehigh, and I’ve been a captain of numerous teams growing up, throughout my high school career and stuff like that. My actual abilities, I would say I’m a very gritty guy. I can get boards, I can score back to the basket. I’ve definitely been improving my game working off the drive, expanding my range with the shot. I have a very solid 15-to-17 footer that I’ve been improving, and I’m trying to expand that to the 3-point line and prove myself out there. Defensively, I’m always known to take a lot of charges. Each year at Lehigh, I always led our team with charges taken. Even out with an ankle injury this last year, I was out for 10 games, and I still led our team in charges, which is crazy. I’d say I’m the guy that can get things done. A guy I would say I admire, I wouldn’t say I model my game after him, but I have a passion for Blake Griffin. I love his athleticism and how he goes after it. He’s definitely got a little bounce on me, but I like his game, for sure.

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