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GW's John Kopriva Is Leader On Court, In Classroom

February 6, 2014

Sought-after high school athletes across the nation participated in National Signing Day Feb. 5, confirming where they would spend the next four years. 

The simple act of signing a national letter of intent attracted widespread media attention for future college students. But John Kopriva spent most of National Signing Day away from the spotlight. A Milwaukee native, Kopriva quietly attended his classes at George Washington University, and then helped his men's basketball team to a 71-57 victory against Duquesne at the Smith Center. 

George Washington Men's Basketball 2013-14: John Kopriva
Photo Credit: Courtesy of GW Athletics

Kopriva, a junior forward, is part of George Washington's best basketball season in seven years. The Colonials have posted an 18-4 record and hold third place in the Atlantic 10 with a 6-2 league mark. The 6-foot-8 Kopriva has averaged 2.0 points and 2.5 rebounds during 13 minutes of action per game.

Kopriva, a co-captain for the Colonials, was one of 44 student-athletes across the nation to earn first-team Academic All-District honors from the College Sports Information Directors of America Jan. 30. Joining him on the District 2 first team were Loyola Maryland's Franz Rassman, Lafayette's Seth Hinrichs and Joey Ptasinski, Louisville's Wayne Blackshear and West Virginia's Kevin Noreen. 

"It was exciting to see," Kopriva said. "This kind of recognition is pretty special."

A member of the Atlantic 10 Commissioner's Honor Roll and a dean's list student for each of his five previous semesters, Kopriva has compiled a 3.93 grade point average. a chemistry major, who plans to become a physician, Kopriva stands a good chance of earning Academic All-America recognition when the national team is announced in late February. 

"John is probably one of the most popular students on our campus," George Washington head coach Mike Lonergan said. "He's a low-maintenance kid who is very easy to coach. The guys on our team really respect him. He's also hosted a lot of our recruits and their families when they've come to campus."

If he earns national honors, Kopriva will join seven previous Colonial basketball players to earn Academic All-America recognition: Pat Tallent (1976), Tom Tate (1978), Mike Zagardo (1978), Mike Samson (1979), Steve Frick (1986, 1987), Alexander Koul (1997, 1998) and Yegor Mescherlakov (1999). 

The school's academic reputation was a major factor in Kopriva's decision to enroll at George Washington, he said. 

"Books and basketball were my two main focuses, and George Washington matched my expectations," Kopriva said. "I wanted to go to medical school, and with my schedule, I needed to get a major that worked for me. Our in-season schedule forces you to stay on top of your tasks, and the chemistry department has been great to work with." 

Kopriva, a member of George Washington's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, has also been nominated for the National Association of Basketball Coaches' Good Works Team for campus and community service. 

While Kopriva has furthered his goal of becoming a doctor, he also has enjoyed the resurgence of the Colonial basketball program. George Washington has broken a three-year losing streak this season, and could be headed for its first NCAA tournament appearance since the 2006-07 campaign. 

"This is a special experience," he said. "Winning games makes it a lot more fun. I love the character of this team, and that takes us a long way."

Lonergan said he admired the way Kopriva had handled the challenges of both a demanding major and his leadership role on a basketball team that is just outside the national top 25. 

"This is the first time that I've had a player go through the premed curriculum in my entire coaching career," Lonergan said. "On the court, John helps us more than his statistics show, and off the court, he's just a terrific kid."