Hi Karvel, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. We’ve seen multiple feature stories written by media outlets such as ESPN about the hardships you faced as an adolescent, and how you overcame those difficult circumstances. Can you tell us about it, for our Haifa fans who may not have heard your inspirational story?
KA: When I was young, my mother had some personal problems. She had to be incarcerated for a few years, and to this day, I still couldn’t tell you who my father is. A lot of the articles that were written about me, put my mother in a negative light, but my mother was trying to provide for her children. She went to jail for selling drugs, because we didn’t have things to eat. Unfortunately, she had to pay for it. I have two younger sisters as well. When my mother left, we were on our own. At first, I stayed at my friend’s house, who would allow me to stay for a certain amount of time, before I had to leave. I can definitely say a lot of it was on me. I could have had a place to stay, but I probably didn’t handle all the situations the best. I would walk 2 to 3 miles to school, since it was a place where I could have a clean shower. I didn’t have many clothes and many things to eat. I was staying at a park right across the street from the hospital, where they would give me some food. It was a rough tough time, but I don’t think I would be where I’m at today if I didn’t go through it. Those are the days where I got a chip on my shoulder. I would never want anyone to go through what I did. It helped me learn how to grind, that things don’t come easy. It was like the world was against you and I was asking God, “Why me?”! I realized if I could overcome this, than nothing could stop me.
When did you get your first big break?
KA: Going into my sophomore year of high school, the assistant coach of my high school basketball team found me living in the park. I was very insecure at the time. He took the time to talk to me, and brought me into his home. I couldn’t shoot the basketball for the life of me, but this coach taught me that I’m not tall, so I’ll have to develop a shot. He had me shooting a 1,000 shots a day. This was where there was a change in the road.
Describe your best attributes as a player and the little things that you do to win games.
KA: There are many people who have basketball skills better than me, who are bigger and stronger than me but i’ve learned how to will myself and my teammates around me to win. I play with a chip on my shoulder. I’m a great people person. I pride myself on being a great teammate. I also pride myself for giving everything for my teammates and my coach. I’m not afraid of anything; nothing can compare to being alone living under a bridge. I have a lot of good qualities and good skills, but my heart is what really makes me who I am.
What are you looking forward to most for the upcoming season? What are your goals?
KA: As you know, I spent my first 2 professional years in Italy with the same club. I’m looking forward to a new start. Maccabi Haifa is the fist big club that I’m getting to play for. No disrespect to my former club Imola, but I’m just excited to see how everything works out in Haifa. I’m excited that I’m on a team that wants to succeed for a championship. I’m getting the chance to play against some of the best players in Europe. I’m excited to see how good I really am. In year’s past, I had individual goals, but I feel like this year it’s about the team, and the team’s success. I just want to win and have fun and enjoy my teammates. I hope that we play well enough that Maccabi wants to bring me back for my second season. My ultimate goal is to earn that second year option.
What was Italy like? How was the Competition? Did you like the food?
KA: The culture of Italy was not bad at all. My girlfriend, who I met at college, is 100% Italian, so she kind of prepared me for it. The Italian food was the best I ever had, so I’m hoping Israel can compete. In regards to the competition, the overseas game is a lot different than in the US. They actually play basketball in Italy. There’s a lot of ball movement, getting each other involved, it’s not 1-on-1. A lot of times in the US and the NBA it’s 1-on-1 basketball. In Italy, you get everyone involved and you can’t hide players. There are a lot of ball screens in Italy, which is something we didn’t do in college. I really enjoy the way they play overseas and the skills they have in overseas basketball. I traveled a million times my rookie year, but I adjusted. The biggest adjustment I had in Italy was the language. I’ve been on my own since 15, but being on your own and not knowing the language, is a different story. Now, I feel like I’m 40% fluent in Italian, so I’m good.
What are your favorite hobbies and activities? How do you spend your free time?
KA: I’m a writer. I have circled around a concept of a book that I want to write. I want to put my life story into a book that’s for children. I want it to be a fictional book that’s not a biography. During my free time, I love to be with family and hanging out with friends. I just like to hoop. Basketball saved my life, so I love to play the game. I also have my own “Ka” sports brand that I’m trying to build up.
What would be your fantasy job besides being a basketball player?
KA: I just want to be in the basketball profession somehow. I would be a head coach, and then after that, I would like to be a sports analyst. I also want to travel the world and speak to children who are not as fortunate. I want to let them know that they really can be whatever they want to be.
What’s your favorite basketball memory?
KA: I’m tied for two favorite memories. I went to Robert Morris University, which is a mid-major school. In my junior year, we beat Kentucky in the NIT Tournament, which had 5 first round NBA draft picks. Last season in Italy, in the elimination Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs, we won the biggest game in the history of that city. It’s a smaller club, which doesn’t have a tradition. A few years before I arrived, they barely won 2 or 3 games, but we finished top four in the league, and even beat big clubs such as Sienna.
Who are some of your sports heroes?
KA: My favorite player of all time is Allen Iverson. Some people say he’s selfish, but I loved him because of his will and his heart and the fact that he played every game like it was his last. They may not have won the game, but you couldn’t defeat Allen Iverson. He earned everything that he had. I feel like that is someone I look up to. My other favorite sports hero was Muhammad Ali.
What is something that you can share with us that people may not know about you?
KA: I love shoes. You will probably see me in a different pair of shoes every game.
What’s your favorite movie?
KA: “The Sixth man” with Marlon Wayans. My other favorite movie is Scarface.
What type of music do you like? Do you have a favorite artist?
KA: My favorite artist is J. Cole. He saved my life, just like basketball did. He is a rapper, who gave me hope. He makes music for people like me.
What’s one of your biggest Pet Peeve’s in general and in sports?
KA: On the court, my biggest pet peeve is when people bend down to get a loose ball and not dive for it. That probably pisses me off more than anything.
Do you have a favorite pregame snack?
KA: Any type of fruit. As long as it’s fruit, I’m good. I’m a fruit fanatic.
What do you know about Israel and Haifa?
KA: I’ve done some research on Haifa. I know about the championship they won in 2013 and their recent success. In regards to Israel, I don’t know that much, but I know from the bible that there is a lot of history. Right now, I think of Israel as a sacred land, and the city of Haifa looks amazing.
What’s your message to the Maccabi Haifa fans?
I pride myself on being the “Best Kept Secret”. For me, my best kept secret is my heart. I will die every time I play. I will be on the floor in every game. I can’t promise how many wins and losses we’ll have or how many points I will score but every game will be played with heart, it will be a joy to watch. Every game you will see me on the floor to play every game like its my last!