Kopriva: Working on His Game, Serving His Community
By Chris McManes, MikeLonergan.com
Friday, April 27, 2012
WASHINGTON – If you want a glimpse of the type of student-athlete Mike Lonergan is recruiting to restock the George Washington Colonials, look no further than freshman John Kopriva.
Since the end of last season – Lonergan’s first in Foggy Bottom – Kopriva has been working hard to maintain his 4.0 grade-point average and improve his game. And on Wednesday he carved out about 90 minutes of his precious time to attend an event for preschool children at Smith Center.
Kopriva offered his talent and good-natured personality by serving as a volunteer at an event sponsored by GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. The gathering, held in conjunction with the USA Science & Engineering Festival this week in Washington, was designed to help youngsters experience what engineers do to build and enhance the world around us.
Kopriva didn’t just make an appearance. He worked directly with the children, showing them how sand strengthened a toilet paper tube so that a person could stand on it. The point was to demonstrate how the combination of two simple materials resulted in a single, stronger structure.
“It’s great for us players to get involved with events at Smith Center and have the chance to use it for something other than basketball,” Kopriva said. “I enjoy giving back to a community that gives us so much. These little kids love coming to our games, and it’s fun for them to see a basketball players doing something in the field of engineering.”
Following the on-court mingling with the children – which featured Curious George – Kopriva helped put away chairs and went upstairs as the children ate lunch to dispose of trash and recyclable material. His teammate, Dwayne Smith, also participated in the event.
Kopriva, who lives in Milwaukee and was a star forward and quarterback at Marquette University High School, was asked why he stuck around to perform mundane tasks.
“You’ve got to do all the little things, just like on the court,” said Kopriva, who plans to attend medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon. “When you come to an event like this, it’s more fun for me, too, to participate in the fullest and not just stand around. It’s good to get active, to get in the sand with the kids building those structures and doing everything to the fullest.”
Lonergan is pleased Kopriva chose to follow him from Vermont, the school to which he originally committed. But when Lonergan accepted the GW job nearly a year ago, Kopriva knew he wanted to join him.
“John represents the type of player I want to recruit – an excellent student, a player who keeps progressing and most importantly, a good person,” Lonergan. “He comes from a strong family that has instilled respect and hard work into him. John is going to help us a lot over the next three years.”
The 6-foot-8, 215-pound Kopriva, who started 18 games last season, has been weight training, keeping his conditioning level high and working hard to bolster his skills, particularly his mid-range jumper.
“I’m trying to extend my game a little bit away from the post – while still working on my post moves – and really trying this offseason to put on weight so I can handle myself better in the A-10,” he said. “I also want to become more skilled in general, which involves working on anything 15 feet and in. Just trying to be automatic and gain a little more versatility.”
Dr. Michael King, professor and chair of GW’s Department of Chemistry, recently informed Kopriva and three fellow students that the publishers of the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics were planning to honor them for “having achieved an outstanding record” in their introductory chemistry classes. The four will each receive a certificate and copy of the book.
Kopriva had to depart Smith Center before all the children had finished eating. But he had a good reason:
“I’ve got a chemistry exam.”