Ever since Killian Larson stepped into the starting lineup as a senior for the Puyallup High School boys basketball program during the 2008-09 season, he dreamed of playing at the NCAA Division I level.
Larson, who attended Division II Dominican University first two seasons, transferred to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix prior to the 2011-12 season. Now the 6-foot-9 post has emerged as the Antelopes’ go-to player in the paint as a senior.
Larson is averaging 15.8 points and 11.4 rebounds for the Antelopes, who are 13-12 overall and 8-4 in the Western Athletic Conference during their first season as a Division I program.
“It is just a great group of guys,” Larson said. “Our team has players from all over the place. We have guys from Arizona, Michigan, Texas and Australia.
“Our team has a lot of different personalities and differences, but we have gelled together from day one. There isn’t one guy on this team who has a problem with one of their teammates. We have a great brotherhood and love each other.”
Larson is having his best statistical season of his collegiate career. He’s the Antelopes’ second-leading scorer and leading rebounder.
“It’s been a fun year, but I have never been the type to have it be all about me,” he said. “It’s nice to know the guys can rely on me and I can deliver for them when they pass me the ball. I do my part, and they get the assist.
“My favorite aspect of the game is rebounding,” Larson said. “I just love cleaning up the boards.”
Larson scored 20 points and corralled 11 rebounds Feb. 20 to lead Grand Canyon in a 74-73 victory against Seattle University at KeyArena in Seattle.
“We were able to squeak that one out at the end,” he said. “Jerome Garrison had a huge blocked shot (with six seconds remaining) at the end of the game.
“It was great to come home and play in front of a lot of family members and friends,” Larson added. “Playing in your home area is always a fun experience. All of my teammates wanted me to do well in that game.”
Larson said he’s benefitted from rigorous conditioning going into his senior campaign. He said he weighed about 285 pounds as a junior last year but has played consistently at 240 pounds this season.
Larson said former NBA player Dan Majerle, who was hired as Grand Canyon’s head coach before the season, is intensely focused on making sure his players are in top physical condition.
“Coach Majerle is very intense,” Larson said. “One of his biggest things is that he wants us to be the most conditioned team on the floor. I have never run so much in my life.
“We compete every day at practice, and the intensity level is incredible,” he said. “Sometimes guys get into it with each other, but at the end of the day, we are all brothers, and everything is cool.”
Larson said the increased cardio activity, combined with a better diet, has paid off.
“Our strength and conditioning coach Chuck Howard has worked me with to make sure I’m eating a healthier diet ever since I got to Grand Canyon,” Larson said. “I haven’t eaten fast food in three years and have focused on just eating lean meats and healthy stuff.
“During the preseason conditioning test, I ran a timed mile in 5 minutes, 40 seconds. I even beat some of the guards on our team, and I will take that any day of the week.”
Larson said he was motivated by people who told him during his high school days he would never become a Division I basketball player.
“A lot of people said I didn’t have the talent or was capable of doing well at the Division I level,” he said. “To be one of the top rebounders in Division I as a senior is very gratifying. All of the hard work that I have put into this has came to fruition. It’s a big blessing. I’m big into faith, and I’m a Christian. God has blessed me.”
Larson said he has aspirations of pursuing a professional basketball career overseas following the season.
But before he makes the trip, he’ll get married on May 25 to Megan Gorman.
“We have known each other since seventh grade at Kalles Junior High School,” Larson said.