Balancing the responsibilities of a Big Ten basketball player is no easy task. Succeeding as a pre-med student at one of the country’s top universities certainly isn’t either. Doing both at the same time? That’s nearly impossible.
But when Weinberg sophomore Karly Roser is not shooting threes at Welsh-Ryan Arena, she’s shooting for stellar grades in some of Northwestern’s most rigorous classes.
Roser’s aspirations reflect her busy life.She hopes to be a neurologist and currently plays for the 'Cats at point guard. Originally from Ontario, Canada, she transitioned to a new country, but has kept her sights set on Olympic basketball. That said, academics come first for Roser, who's taking organic chemistry and biology while consistently juggling lectures and labs with practice. “I strive for an A in everything and dedicate most of my time to my studies,” Roser said.
This quarter, Roser packed a four–hour Monday organic chemistry lab and a three-hour Friday biochemistry lab into her schedule. She began the quarter taking four classes, but she dropped an English course because of her already busy week.
“I have an orgo lab and a bio lab and those are like two separate classes, so basically I’m in like five classes,” she said. “I feel like sometimes all I do is play basketball and study.”
Roser’s basketball and academic commitments don’t always agree – her biochemistry lab cuts into Friday practices. Still, when she’s with the squad, she tries to remember her on-court goals.
“You’re there for a reason, and that’s to get better at basketball and help your team out,” she said.
How does Roser manage both pre-med classes and basketball? Her strategy is two-fold – she tries to make the most of her free time, and allows basketball to take her mind off of schoolwork.
“If I am in the training room, like getting a half-hour treatment or whatever, I’ll always bring like a book to study with or something to read for classes,” Roser said.
Despite all this, Roser aims for at least seven hours of sleep per night. It’s this commitment to self-discipline that caught the eye of head coach Joe McKeown.
“We look for three things in recruiting and she met all three right off the bat,” he said. “Obviously the basketball piece, the third component, she had, but the first two, the character and the academic … those three things really attracted us.”
As a high school recruit, Roser’s four college choices were Michigan, Michigan State, Marquette and Northwestern. Yet Northwestern offered the unique combination of a good education and the chance to play for an up-and-coming program. The program's status, however, presented Roser with the surprise and challenge of serious playing time in her inaugural year with the Wildcats.
“Being a freshman last year and being asked to play like 38 minutes a game, yeah, I was not really expecting that,” she said, chuckling a little. “I was learning as I was going.” After Roser joined the team last year as a freshman, she averaged more than 30 minutes per game and ranked third in the Big Ten in assists. But she points to this sophomore season as her time to develop a niche.
Roser’s layup at the end of a Feb. 3 game against No. 24 Iowa gave the Wildcats a thrilling 67-65 victory, a huge step in turning the corner from freshman to upperclassmen leader.
“With the Big Ten being such a tough conference, now that I’ve had one year under my belt, I’m more comfortable as well with the competition,” she said.
McKeown added that Roser has grown since she first donned a 'Cats jersey as a freshman, both physically and mentally.
“I think she has a much better sense of how good she is,” he said,
As a sophomore, Roser said that there’s room for improvement, particularly with stepping up the level of aggression in her game. According to senior center Dannielle Diamant, though, that aggressiveness gives way to a calming presence on the court.
“When she’s out there handling the ball we know that she’s in control of our team,” Diamant said. “I have confidence in her to call the right play.”
It’s this control that paces Roser through athletics and school. Roser said she hopes to attend medical school, but before that time comes, she has time to leave her mark on the hardwood. It’s not often that student-athletes show this much foresight, McKeown said.
“No matter how high I set the bar for her, I think her own personal drive is much higher,” he said. “It’s unlimited how good she can be.”