Kari Korver continues family tradition

UCLA Bruins freshman guard Jordan Adams learned a valuable basketball lesson this fall – don’t participate in a shooting contest with a Korver.

Like her cousin Kyle – a 41 percent three-point shooter for the 76ers, Jazz, Bulls and now the Atlanta Hawks – Kari Korver can knock down a three-pointer.

And at the ceremony to mark the opening of UCLA’s newly renovated arena – Pauley Pavilion Madness in November – Adams, the second-leading scorer for Ben Howland’s 11-3 Bruins, lost a long-distance competition to Kari, the freshman guard who ranks third in three-pointers on the 10-2 women’s team.

“It’s fun doing those contests against boys because, as the girl, there is not a lot of pressure,” Kari said. “No one expects you to win so it is fun to surprise people.”

The effort impressed Howland, who said “I think we should get Kari to shoot for us.”

And why not? It’s in her genes.

Her parents both played high school basketball, with her father playing DIII basketball at Central College in Iowa, while her older brother also played collegiately. Four of her uncles also played college basketball while her aunt once scored 74 points in a high school basketball game. Aside from Kyle, she has three other cousins – Kaleb, Klayton and Kirk – who also played college ball at Drake, Creighton and Missouri-Kansas City, respectively.

“I really do feel like it is a gift from God, but it is also hours of work,” Kari said. “Shooting is a lot about muscle memory and confidence and that comes from hours of working on your shot.”

Kari began playing the game in kindergarten, learning the game from her dad and by watching her cousin Kyle’s basketball career.

“[My dad] taught me to work hard at a young age,” Kari said. “And when Kyle made it into the NBA, it made me feel like I could maybe be a good player too.”

Kyle averaged 14.1 ppg and 5.2 rpg, while shooting .453 percent from the three-point line in 128 games during his four-year career at Creighton 1999-03. He was drafted by the New Jersey Nets in the second round (51st pick overall) of the 2003 NBA Draft before his rights were traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. He averaged double-digits for four of his five years in Philly, leading the NBA in three-pointers in 2004-05 with 226. In 2007, Kyle was dealt to the Jazz where he played parts of three seasons – advancing to the playoffs each year. In 2010, he joined the Chicago Bulls before being dealt to Atlanta this offseason. He has hit 1,199 three points in his nine-year NBA career, 18th amongst active NBA players.

“My dad tried to teach me perfect shooting form from a young age and I think as I was learning, I was watching all [Kyle’s] games on TV,” Kari said. “So I have been watching him shoot for a long time, so it would make sense that I would end up with a similar shot.”

And similar results.

Kari led the nation by making 138 three-pointers as a junior at Valley Christian High School in Cerritos, Calif., drawing the attention of the Bruins. But just four days after she committed to UCLA, she tore her ACL at a club tournament and had to sit out her entire senior season.

“When I first tore it, I was really scared I would lose my scholarship offer from UCLA,” Kari said. “Coach Cori (Close) could have taken away my scholarship if she had wanted to, but she stuck to the offer and I am grateful for that.”

Despite her injury, Kari, wearing a thick knee brace, participated in the 2012 American Family Insurance Girls’ three-Point Contest against high school standouts Antoinette Bannister (Potter’s House HS, Jacksonville, Fla.), Morgan Batey (Pace Academy HS, Atlanta, Ga.), Jasmine Jenkins (East Hall HS, Gainesville, Ga.), Addy Roller (Purdy HS, Purdy, Mo.), Shilpa Tummala (St. Mary’s HS, Phoenix, Ariz.), Jamie Weisner (Clarkston HS, Clarkston, Wash.) and Kim Cerjan (Doherty HS, Colorado Springs, Colo.) at the 2012 Final Four on CBS.

In the final, she bested Tummala, 19-11, to win the event.

Now at UCLA, she has continued to rehab and has had to miss a few practices due to swelling in her knee. But she has appeared in all 11 Bruins games this season – including four starts – and is third on the team in three-pointers. The team has won 10 of their first 12 games with two victories over top-25 teams, 86-80, over then-No. 11 Oklahoma and, 62-42, over then-No. 12 Texas as the team enters Pac-12 conference play.

“I would love for our team to win a Pac-12 championship and go to a Final Four,” Kari said. “Doing something like that as a team would be memorable and meaningful. I personally just want to get better every day and become the best basketball player I am capable of being.”