When Adam Klie of Anchorage joined the UC San Diego men’s basketball team, he didn’t care about scoring as much as did rebounding and playing defense.
If he didn’t do those things well, he had little chance of staying on the court long enough to score.
Sacrifice trumped stats and the next thing you knew, Klie was a staple of the starting lineup for the NCAA D2 Tritons and wound up having a fantastic first year in the California Collegiate Athletic Conference. He was voted CCAA Freshman of the Year by league coaches.
“Coming into the season that was the personal goal that I set for myself, and so to have that goal become a reality is great,” he told me. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I want to build on it. I want to be even better than freshman of the year in this conference.”
Klie, of Service High fame, started 13 of 26 games and averaged 10.1 points on 49 percent shooting as UC San Diego finished the season 15-11.
“We were really close to making the playoffs and it’s heartbreaking that we got that close and couldn’t get it done,” he said. “We want to make the postseason. I want to lead the team to a playoff position, that’s my motivation for getting better this summer.
“Given how good the league is, I have to work even harder if I want to take that next step.”
Klie was a four-year starter and three-year captain in high school. He was named Class 4A Player of the Year as a senior. Now he’s pegged as the top freshman in the CCAA.
He plays hard, he plays smart and he plays defense.
“At this level you have to defend every possession,” Klie said. “One of the things that I think helped me adjust was that ability to focus on defense; being in the right position and making the right reads. I think early on that ensured I played key minutes.
“From there, I just let my offensive game come naturally, but what got me to the point of playing big minutes was my defense.”
His scoring did pick up the second half of the season. The 6-foot-4 guard had nine double-figure performances in the final 13 games, highlighted by a season-high 24 points.
“Even my coaches said my confidence increased as the season went on, and I felt more comfortable taking that shot or making this play,” Klie said. “My coaches gave me confidence. They let me play. You just keep playing more confident and all of a sudden you’re starting and you’re playing tons of minutes and the coaches have confidence in you and you just play and have a lot of fun.”
Van Williams, a 20-year local sports writer and the former sports editor of the Anchorage Daily News, writes about the athletic exploits of Alaskans for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.