UAA Athletics

Growth and gratitude: Anchorage junior Tobin Karlberg is propelling the Seawolves in his breakout season

The keyword for Tobin Karlberg’s season with the UAA men’s basketball team could very easily be growth.

The junior guard is in the midst of his most productive and impactful season. He’s averaging career-highs nearly across the board, and is leading the Seawolves in field goals made, 3-pointers made, steals and points per game with an average of 17.7.

But Karlberg’s focus is on how he achieved that growth, distributing much of the credit throughout the team.

“Any success that I have had this year is a product of my teammates finding me and helping me, coaches that believe in me and put me in positions to be successful, and teammates who help me execute,” Karlberg said.

With Karlberg leading the way, the Seawolves (13-7 overall, 8-5 GNAC) have established an unblemished 9-0 home record and are well-positioned to earn a conference title and make some noise in the postseason. UAA hosts a pair of conference games this week, welcoming Western Oregon (6-16, 5-9 GNAC) at 5:15 p.m. Thursday before hosting Saint Martin’s (17-7, 10-5 GNAC) in a key matchup at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Alaska Airlines Center.

As much gratitude as he’d like to give elsewhere, most of the credit for the Karlberg’s breakout campaign can be attributed to his own tenacious work ethic and unrelenting drive to better himself.

“That dude is a product of his work,” said his fellow junior guard, AJ Garrity. “He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever been around as a teammate. He’s in the gym relentlessly in the mornings, in the nights, always getting up extra shots.”


Garrity even went as far as to call Karlberg “easily the biggest gym rat” that he has ever met, which definitely acts as a badge of honor among players.

“He is First-Team All Conference for sure if not Player of the Year,” Garrity said. “That man can score the ball at any level so we’re lucky to have him.”

UAA men’s head coach Rusty Osborne said that gym rat mentality has helped Karlberg improve his ability to create opportunities for himself as a scorer.

“You don’t become a good shooter by not putting time in,” Osborne said. “He puts a ton of time in working on his game both in season and out of season.”

Karlberg and senior forward Oggie Pantovic were two of the team’s returning cornerstone players, according to Osborne. The Seawolves expected them to play well and neither has disappointed and Karlberg in many ways has exceeded expectations.

“Tobin is going to be a big part of any success we have,” Osborne said. “We expected him to be a very good player for us and carry on the tradition of a lot of our other successful Alaskans.”

Karlberg, a former Grace Christian star, joins a growing list of players who were born and raised in Alaska and developed into star players for the program over the last decade. Osborne listed the likes of Travis Thompson and Kyle Fossman as examples. Both players parlayed their standout college careers into professional ones abroad in Europe.

Karlberg believes that he has become more of a complete player that can score from all three levels but has especially seen his game grow the most defensively.

“I’ve seen myself grow as far as just taking pride in being a great on-ball defender and stopping the guy in front of me as well as just understanding how to play defense with the team concept too,” Karlberg said.

Osborne concurs with that assessment.

“Like any good player, he has made growth every year,” Osborne said. “I’m proud of him for that and proud that he has become a very valuable rebounder for us in addition to being a good offensive player.”

Garrity also credited Karlberg for his improved consistency and greater understanding of what opposing defenses present to him within the flow of games.

“He’s just been able to score with people face-guarding him, he’s been able to create for others by setting screens when people are guarding him tough but he’s really good off the dribble and if you give him any space and feed him off a screen he’ll light it up,” Garrity added.

The decision to stay in his hometown to continue his playing career at the college level was an easy one for Karlberg. The opportunity for his friends, family and the community that supported him growing up to be able to continue to watch him play and thrive in person was a huge deciding factor.

“That’s really one of the reasons why I wanted to stay here and play for Anchorage is because my family and friends could be at every game,” Karlberg said. “It means a lot to see them in the stands and supporting for the last three years.”

As far as the outlook on the remainder of the season, Karlberg and his teammates are thankful to be ending the season on their homecourt for the final two games.

“We know that we can do something really special if we take care of business for these next two games, but we also know that nothing is guaranteed all throughout the year,” Karlberg said. “We’re excited but are keeping things in perspective at this point.”

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.