Konrade the Tigers' silent assassin
By CONOR NICHOLL
The Fort Hays State University men's basketball team met at the Victor E. Tiger Lounge inside Gross Memorial Coliseum for the NCAA Division II Tournament selection show last Sunday night. The Tigers believed they would earn an at-large bid, but it wasn't assured.
Then, the NCAA announced FHSU was the No. 6 seed in the eight-team Central Region. Senior guard Carson Konrade was "pretty excited." He thought -- and hoped -- the rest of the team was going to jump up and cheer.
"I wanted to, and nobody did," Konrade said with a smile. "I just kind of kept it inside of me. I was very glad."
While some Tigers, including coach Mark Johnson, have shown flashes of emotion and joy in a wild winter, Konrade has had a quieter manner. It's helped him produce all-MIAA honorable mention honors and a third team Academic All-American award, the first FHSU men's basketball Academic All-American since 1978.
"I try to stay focused until the game is over and then get excited later," he said.
Konrade, a Spearville graduate and Colby Community College product, carries a 3.96 grade-point average in exercise science. As the sixth man last year, Konrade averaged 9.1 points and made 41.8 percent of his treys, but has elevated his game this winter.
"That's what you have to do to continue to have your program try to be good every single year," coach Mark Johnson said. "You have got to have guys that maybe come off the bench or are maybe role players and they become a senior and really take that jump."
In his second season with the Tigers and first as a starter, Konrade averages 13 points per contest and has made 49.4 percent (80 of 162) of his 3-pointers, third best in Tiger history and second nationally this winter.
At times, the defense has focused more on senior forward Dwayne Brunson or collapsing on sophomore point guard Craig Nicholson, which has allowed Konrade open looks. Konrade never thought he would make 50 percent of his 3s. Konrade has honed his form for many years.
He competed in free throw contests as a youngster; Konrade believes if he shoots free throws well, then that will carry over to treys.
"A couple of times, when I just see him, I am just like, 'Carson, I already know that you are going to knock it down,' " Brunson said.
Konrade has delivered several big shots late in games, including a big 3 with 85 seconds that brought the Tigers within three at home against University of Central Oklahoma on Feb. 26. FHSU eventually won the contest, 80-79.
On Feb. 1, Konrade made a trey that tied the game at 85 in overtime. Fort Hays eventually defeated Washburn University 99-92.
"That's been the key to our season," Johnson said. "Not only him, he has hit some big ones. ... Sometimes, it's not the shot that wins the game. It's the shot that puts you back into contention."
School-wise, Konrade received his first B in his Tiger career in anatomy and physiology last semester. Konrade had a 4.0 GPA at Colby.
Spearville had a grading scale where 94-100 was an A. Once, he received a 93. Konrade tries to focus in class and then homework done right away so he can put attention on basketball or other things. He wants to become a physical therapy assistant.
"When we have a test or something, study the night before, and try to know what's on the test," he said.