Kyle Korver of surprising Creighton is no longer just a three-point artist
Basketball isn't just a passion for Kyle Korver, the high-scoring forward for No. 16 Creighton, but it's also something of a second religion for his entire family. Kyle's father, Kevin, is the senior pastor of the Third Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa, where he was a shooting guard for Division III Central College in the mid-1970s. Kyle's mother, Laine, also played for Central, at forward, after once scoring 74 points in a high school game. Three of Kyle's uncles played at Division III or NAIA schools in Iowa. (Two uncles are now clergymen, as well.) All three of Kyle's younger brothers play too, including 18-year-old Klayton, a forward at Pella Community High who last fall committed to Drake in Des Moines. "Most of my friends in Pella played football, but I always played basketball because of my family," says Kyle. "I was always either in school, at home or in the gym."
As a result of his upbringing, Korver, a 6'7" senior, now possesses one of the most divine shooting strokes in the nation, which has enabled him to help Creighton to its best start in more than three decades. The Bluejays were 11-1 after Korver scored a game-high 23 points in their 84-63 win over Drake on Sunday. Though it dropped one notch in this week's AP poll, Creighton is still ranked for the first time since 1974-75. The runaway favorite to win his second straight Missouri Valley Conference player of the year award, Korver was leading Creighton in scoring (19.8 points a game), rebounds (5.8) and assists (3.3). He was also fourth in the nation in three-pointers made per game (4.7) and was hitting 54.4% of his shots from beyond the arc.
Korver's long-range shooting is so good that he made 67.6% of his three-point attempts in Creighton's first four games, which were played using experimental rules that put the line at the international distance of 20'6", nine inches farther than normal. Says Bluejays coach Dana Altman, "The ball looks so good coming off his hand, you're surprised when it doesn't go in."
Korver practices hard, but he refuses to adopt an overly structured regimen. "Coaches have tried to give me drills and programs, but that makes practicing feel like a job," he says. "I shoot until I feel comfortable, and then I stop." Since arriving at Creighton, Korver also has worked hard to prove he's more than just a shooter.
Creighton earned automatic bids to three of the last four NCAA tournaments by winning its league tournament, and last March, Korver had 16 points in the Bluejays' 83-82 first-round upset of fifth-seeded Florida in the Midwest Regional. But he sees that as mere prelude. "I'm not looking back on my career right now and thinking, O.K., that's enough," he says. "No real player does that. I still have a lot more I hope to accomplish."
Can This Coach Be Saved?
UCLA coach Steve Lavin likes to refer to the start of conference play as the second season, and its arrival this year may be especially welcome because it marks the end of a miserable first season for the Bruins. After its worst nonconference start (2-5) in 18 years, UCLA began Pac-10 play last week on a positive note by sweeping conference doormats Washington and Washington State on the road. "Right now we need all the positive momentum we can get," said Lavin.
It's probably no coincidence that UCLA has played much better away from home, where the calls for Lavin's firing have been everywhere. "Sometimes when you're snuggling, it helps to get out of Los Angeles," Lavin says.
It also helps to be at full strength. Three talented sophomores, forward Andre Patterson, swingman Dijon Thompson and guard Ryan Walcott, missed several games in the first two months because of injury or eligibility issues, but all were in action last week, giving UCLA a formidable 10-man rotation. Forward Jason Kapono's 44-point explosion against Washington State, on 9-of-10 shooting from three-point range, also bodes well.