South Jersey Glory Days Publisher Dave O’Sullivan sat down recently to talk to Egg Harbor Township junior guard Jake Karp, who is one of five new starters for an Eagles team that made it to the Group 4 state championship game a year ago. The young Eagles got off to a rough start this year at 3-8, but Karp — who averages better than 50 points per game and has more than 50 assists in the season’s first 11 games — said he’s confident he and his teammates can turn things around.
Sully: What has this season has been like for you? I know it’s been a whole new experience with a whole new starting five. What were some of your expectations coming into the season?
Karp: With this whole new starting five, I’d say it’s been a learning experience. We have a lot of kids who haven’t even touched the varsity floor before this year, so I feel like as a team we’re all learning, and we’re learning together. I didn’t expect our season to be going like this, but I know that we can turn it around and I’m confident that we will.
Sully: What was it like being a part of that team last year? You went to the state championship game and had all those great players. What was it like just being a part of that and being around those guys?
Karp: In the beginning of the season last year, I didn’t get much playing time, but as the season went on, I got to play with them more and more. It’s just the pace of the game is so different (than playing on JV). Playing with them was really fun, it was really upbeat usually. But it was hard to play with them because those five guys all grew up playing together, so I sort of had to shift into how they played. But after a while I got the hang of it and it was really fun.
Sully: How tough was it to go up against those guys in practice every day? Guys like D.J. Germann and Jay-Nelly Reyes. I’m sure that made you a better player.
Karp: That probably helped my defense the most. Even my freshman year, having to guard (former star guard Carlos) Lopez. I had a bunch of good guards who I played against my whole high school career.
Sully: What did you learn about those guys most in terms of just being a quality varsity athlete? A lot more goes into it than what people see on game night, right?
Karp: Yeah, it’s not just basketball. Skill-wise, I’ve learned a lot from them. And at the guard position, maturity is probably one of the biggest things about your game, keeping your composure and just acting mature. Just knowing what to do in different situations. How to act, things like that.
Sully: What’s the biggest difference from last year, watching mostly from the bench, to this year actually being out there? I’m sure it looks a lot easier when you’re watching from the bench.
Karp: Last year on the bench was a learning experience. I watched a lot, I learned a lot, but I felt as if even on the bench I was always ready to come in and I was always ready to have a spot on the floor. So I feel like it’s not that much of a difference.
Sully: What’s the one thing you can’t really prepare for until you’re out there every day on the court as a starter?
Karp: As a starter, it’s just it’s you and you have to understand that. You can’t really understand it until you’re out there on the floor, but all eyes are on you. You have to understand and be ready for that kind of pressure.
Sully: How cool is it to be a varsity player, especially in a sport like basketball where the fans are so close to you and right on top of you in some gyms? And what’s it like when you make a great play or you win a big game? That has to be such a great feeling, especially the sport like basketball that draws so much interest.
Karp: The crowd definitely has a big impact on a lot of people’s games. It can affect people. It could hurt them in a negative way, but for me, I feed off the crowd. Even if it’s an away game and I have people chirping and talking trash, that feeds me. I like when they do that. Of course, when we’re home and they’re cheering for you when you make a good play, I think it helps a lot.
Sully: What do you like most about Coach (Cameron) Bell?
Karp: Coach Bell is not just a coach, he likes being a teacher, too. He connects with me on a personal level. He wants to get me ready for the next level, not just basketball but on a personal level, too.
Sully: What’s it like to be at EHT High? It’s such a diverse school, so many different types of kids, different races, nationalities, different backgrounds. It has to be a pretty neat school to go to.
Karp: It’s a giant school. It’s crazy just to be there every day. Even as a junior in that school, I still see kids to this day who I’ve never seen in my life before. It seems like I see a new kid every day in that school. It’s crazy, like how many kids are there in this school?
Sully: What do you like most about that school? It seems like a fun place to go to high school.
Karp: I think it’s fun. It’s a pretty big school and I like a lot of the staff, I like all my coaches for basketball and soccer and I have a lot of friends there.
Sully: Do you ever get any downtime? I’m sure you’re playing soccer in the spring and basketball in the summer, too, right?
Karp: Spring is usually my downtime, but at the same time I usually play basketball year-round, besides soccer season.
Sully: What kind of things do you do when you have some downtime?
Karp: I like to surf. I like to snowboard. I just like to always stay active no matter what. That’s Just how I grew up.
Sully: Who was your favorite athlete growing up and why?
Karp: My favorite athlete was probably Kobe Bryant. My dad had a lot of impact when it came to sports as I grew up and he was a big Michael Jordan fan. I kind of see Kobe as a little Mike. Just like in all parts of his game. And I really liked Kobe’s mentality and how he played the game.
Sully: What’s your go-to snack food?
Karp: Probably Goldfish. Yeah, always some goldfish. Or some Skittles. Skittles are a good pre-game snack for me.
Sully: What’s something that should never go on pizza?
Karp: Pineapple, definitely pineapple.
Sully: If someone gave you a plane ticket to go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Karp: Probably Hawaii. I’ve always wanted to go, with the surfing and just the overall environment. I’ve always wanted to go there my whole life.
Sully: What would you tell your freshman self if you could go back to your first day of high school and give him some advice?
Karp: Probably keep my head up because last year was definitely hard when it came to playing time. That’s all I wanted to do was just be on the floor, and in the beginning of the year playing half JV and half varsity definitely got my hopes down a little bit. But I just needed to keep my head up because I knew my time was coming.
Sully: What would you tell some younger kids coming up? What’s the most enjoyable part of being a high school athlete?
Karp: I just love the lifestyle of being an athlete because you’re always on the go. I love being on the go, just playing basketball, just playing the sport you love. You have to enjoy it while it’s here because all of a sudden, I’m a junior and I only have one year left. It’s going by in a flash.
Sully: What’s in your earphones as you’re getting ready for a game?
Karp: I love Drake. Drake is probably my most-listened-to artist.
Sully: Is there one particular song that you just have to listen to before a game?
Karp: If I’m listening to Drake it would probably be “You Broke My Heart” or “Virginia Beach.”
Sully, as he’s known throughout South Jersey, began his newspaper career in 1995 and has worked for some of New Jersey’s top papers, including The Asbury Park Press and Press of Atlantic City, as a writer and editor. He’s earned several New Jersey Press Association awards and continues to produce high quality reporting, writing and photography.
A native of Ocean County, Sully played high school baseball at Lacey Township High and college baseball at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. After a successful 15-year career in the newspaper business, Sully launched Glory Days Magazine in 2013 and for nearly a decade has been bringing fans outstanding and insightful coverage of high school sports throughout South Jersey.