How UConn became home for men's basketball's budding star Alex Karaban: 'He's very happy'



Alex Karaban’s UConn Basketball Journey: Finding Home and Happiness as a Budding Men’s Basketball Star

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NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — The story of Alex Karaban, the sophomore forward of the UConn men’s basketball team, is one of dedication, passion, and the pursuit of dreams. It begins with a small court, a motorcycle sale, and a family’s unwavering support.

Alexei Karaban, Alex’s father, recognized his son’s growing love for basketball. To nurture his passion, Alexei sold his beloved Kawasaki motorcycle, leveled a piece of land on their property, and had a basketball court installed. This court, emblazoned with blue lines and the initials “AK,” became the backdrop for Alex’s formative years. In the winter, he’d brave the cold, knocking icicles from the net, shoveling snow off the court, and practicing for hours, bundled up in a winter jacket and hat.

Despite its modest size, Alex cherished the court, sharing it with friends and family. The court’s “AK” initials represented not only Alex but also his father, Alexei, and his two younger siblings, Ana and Andrew. Alex honed his skills on this court, but his talent extended far beyond its boundaries.

Alex’s journey to becoming a star player for UConn was not straightforward. It hinged on an important decision – one that required the approval of his mother, Olga Karaban. Alex had an excellent visit to the UConn campus and was ready to commit, but Olga had concerns about the academic aspect of her son’s education.

After the initial visit, Olga remarked that she hadn’t heard enough about the educational opportunities at UConn. This prompted Alex to call Coach Dan Hurley, expressing his mother’s reservations. What followed was a remarkable effort by the UConn coaching staff to win over Olga’s support.

Athletic director David Benedict helped coordinate the effort, and a return visit was arranged for the Karaban family. UConn’s president, Radenka Maric, and engineering professors joined the meeting. They discussed curriculums, potential career paths, and showcased the university’s academic offerings. UConn left no stone unturned to prove its commitment to providing a quality education.

Olga recalled the visit, saying, “We went to the engineering center, and they were showing crazy stuff. It was actually interesting, at least for me.” Her husband, Alexei, agreed that the visit was intriguing. While the day was long and didn’t involve basketball, it was a pivotal moment that would shape Alex’s future.

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Alex had explored other universities, including some Ivy League schools, but his heart was set on UConn. The Huskies’ victory in the previous season was a testament to their capabilities. Aligning Olga’s opinion with her son’s instincts was crucial, and UConn succeeded in doing so.

“He’s very happy,” Olga said. “It is the best decision he ever made, going to UConn.”

Alex Karaban’s journey to UConn wasn’t just about basketball. His academic pursuits and dreams of an NBA career added depth to his story. He was a computer science major and aimed to work in finance or become a teacher. However, his immediate goal was to become an NBA player, and with a strong sophomore season, he had the potential to enter the first round of the 2024 NBA draft. He promised his mother that he would return to complete his degree if he decided to leave early for the NBA.

The Karaban family’s story of immigration to the United States added a unique layer to their journey. Olga, who hails from Ukraine, arrived in Massachusetts in 1996, escaping war and antisemitism. Alexei, from Belarus, came to the U.S. in 2001, driven by the opportunity for his career as a software engineer. Their meeting in the U.S. was serendipitous, and they built a life together far from their native lands.

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Both Alexei and Olga’s families emphasized the importance of education. Their experiences growing up in financially challenging environments in Minsk and Lviv, respectively, instilled a deep appreciation for education and hard work. They believed in the value of education and passed this belief on to their children.

Alex’s early academic dedication and success were influenced by his parents’ emphasis on education. He spent extra hours on math classes and consistently earned straight A’s, all while excelling in basketball. The AK court in his backyard became a central hub for honing his basketball skills.

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Alex’s journey from the AK court to UConn was marked by dedication, hard work, and a strong family foundation. His family’s support, combined with his unwavering commitment to basketball and education, propelled him to become a vital player for the UConn Huskies. As he looked to the future, Alex sought to strike a balance between his student-athlete life and his academic pursuits, all while aiming for a successful NBA career.

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The story of Alex Karaban serves as a testament to the power of family, dedication, and the pursuit of dreams. It’s a journey that started on a small court in Massachusetts and has the potential to reach the grandest of stages in the world of basketball.


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