It happens every year in college basketball – a school becomes enthralled with a special player who has impacted a program so much he becomes part of that school’s history and culture.
Ultimately, though, all players must leave college ranks – often before fans would like to see them go. Alexander Koul and the GW men’s basketball team soon will experience this separation.
Koul, a 7-1, 282-pound center from Belarus, will finish his fourth and final season with the Colonials this semester. Koul is a fan favorite, but his legacy likely will only truly be appreciated after he leaves.
Koul has played 111 consecutive games (through the Jan. 31 game against Virginia Tech.) He has not missed a game for injury, benching or any other reason since he set foot on campus. And he has done this at center, the most physical position in basketball.
Koul’s 1,561 career points (through Jan. 31) place him seventh on GW’s all-time scoring list. He needs only three more points to pass Corky Devlin for sixth place. Scoring 46 more points will move Koul past Dirkk Surles and into the top five. He has blocked more shots (176) than anyone in GW history, and has 800 career rebounds. Koul has led the team in rebounds and blocks for three consecutive years.
In addition to individual accomplishments, Koul has helped his team to GW’s best four-year winning percentage (72-39, .649 through Jan. 31) since the 1950s. In Koul’s three previous years, GW has made two National Invitational Tournament appearances and one NCAA Tournament appearance. The team may be headed for another NCAA bid this season. The Colonials are 18-3 going into their Feb. 5 game with La Salle, and are ranked 22nd in the nation by the Associated Press.
This season, Koul leads GW in rebounds (6.5 per game) and is third on the team in scoring (14.4 per game). Koul said he feels it will be hard to leave GW after so much success.
“It is sad in a way, since I have been here for four years and made so many good friends. This has been like a second home for me,” Koul said. “On the other hand, there are new experiences in front of me, and I will always remember my time here.
“There have been so many good games and experiences. Some of them are the wins over UMass (twice in 1995, once in 1996), the win over Maryland (in the Franklin National Bank Classic this year) and the NCAA Tournament (in 1996), but there have been a lot of great memories,” he said.
Koul said he plans to add more great memories at the end of this season. “I would like for our team to go to San Antonio (the site of the Final Four). I feel that if everybody works hard and plays together as a team, then anything is possible.”
After this season, Koul said he definitely is interested in playing professional basketball. “I would really like to play professionally in either the NBA or overseas. I think I’ll be able to be successful on the professional level,” Koul said.
“He certainly will be a very high NBA draft pick, and he will play in the league for a long time,” GW head coach Mike Jarvis said. “He is a special player, and I know he will be a great success in the pro game.”
La Salle head coach Speedy Morris also sees professional potential for Koul. “He has great size and strength, and I am sure there are teams in the NBA that would love to have him. He’ll get some quality minutes in the NBA and contribute well to any team.”
One thing NBA teams may like about Koul is his durability, which he has demonstrated with his consecutive games streak.
“I have been fortunate to stay fairly healthy most of the time, and I am glad I have been able to start all my games and help the team,” Koul said.
Jarvis said he admires his player’s accomplishment. “It is a great achievement. He has played hurt sometimes and he has missed very few practices in his four years as well. He reminds me of Patrick Ewing in that respect,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis said he knows how hard losing Koul will be. “It is worse than just losing a player. I feel like I am also losing a son, but that comes with coaching in college when you are lucky enough to coach players like Sasha.
“I have enjoyed coaching him for four years, and I am going to miss the person as much as the player when he is gone,” Jarvis said.