Re-evaluation Of And By Jason Carter

Jason Carter believes in vibes. Alabama and Ole Miss have thrown off favorable ones claiming the atmospheric lead for the power forward. In the eyes of college basketball coaches, Carter's stock rose in recent months. "He scrapped his first list and his level changed as the season went along," said Coach Carlos Wilson. Schools such as Colorado State, TCU and Tulane had offered scholarships.

"Once he started putting up some consistent numbers and they saw he was at Christian Life Center Academy which has one of the better programs across the country, Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and schools like that started to recruit him," said the Humble, Texas, independent prep school coach. Originally from New Orleans, Jason Carter's family evacuated to the Houston area to avoid Hurricane Katrina.

Transferring last fall from Thurgood Marshall, a public high school in Missouri City, Texas, his parents wanted him to be involved in a more competitive basketball environment. Wilson encouraged the engaging youngster to attend Christian Life Academy Center last summer after contemplating private schools located on the East coast.

Competing with a host of Division 1 prospects was a challenging situation requiring a period of adjustment for the 6-8, 230 pound transfer.

Wilson said, "When we started our preseason practice, he really wasn't playing well. That's the first time really being around those caliber guys and being in those intense workouts because it's a far cry from what we do as opposed to a public school. What I like about him is he kept getting after it. The light kicked off for him around December. He's been fine ever since."

Carter crisscrossed the country participating in over 45 games beginning the year with CLCA's high school squad before being promoted to the prep school team. He averaged 14.6 ppg and 10.5 rebounds along with two blocks per contest. The prep school team compiled a 30-1 record.

Versatility and a high motor were the attributes initially attracting Wilson's attention. "He's athletic and can do so many things on the court," Wilson said. "You always like players who can do multiple things and play multiple positions. He can shoot, pass, rebound, finish around the paint and knock down jumpers. He has consistent college three-point range and I've also seen him step out and hit from the NBA three-point line, but that is not his calling card." Carter did hit 40 per cent on three-pointers, 49 per cent on all field goals, and 76 per cent from the free throw line, Wilson said.

Jason, the youngest of four boys, comes from a vertically blessed family. Father John at 6-7 played at Pearl River CC (MS) and 6-9 brother Justin has been sitting out the year after transferring to Lamar University.

"I don't know if he is through growing," proclaimed Wilson. "When I got him he was around 6-7 and now he is 6-8." Carter welcomes physical contact associated with being in the paint.

Wilson said, "He doesn't mind banging. He is one of those kind of guys you love to have because so many big guys don't want to be touched. Here is a guy seeking you out to bang.

"Our guys are required to lift weights at 6 in the morning. We have our own strength coach here at the school and he's picked up some pounds and become much stronger. He loves to lift."

His endearing personality provokes dual emotions. "He's going to keep a smile on his face no matter what and that kind of drives you up a wall but you always need that kind of guy that doesn't take it to serious. He's the guy that loosens us up. He's the guy that not only gets us fired up but relaxes us with some of his antics. There have been some times when I really had some choice words for him and when I finished he gave me a hug and told me he loves me and jogs back on to the court," he said about the jovial young man. "He keeps me loose and he keeps his teammates loose." His pleasant disposition is infectious reaching beyond the familiar boundary of family and friends. "We're on the road a lot and I'll be looking for him," explained Wilson. "He'll be sitting at a restaurant with a group of older women. I'll ask him, ‘How did you hook up with these older ladies?' He'll have them rolling. He's not shy at all. Everybody who comes in contact with him really, really loves him."

On-the-court indecisiveness stemming from Carter's versatility is a flaw Wilson hopes will be rectified. "He can do so many things but I want him to be just a little quicker making his decision. Is he going to shoot it, pass it around or drive the basketball?" said the perplexed task master. Defensively he seems adept at guarding power forwards and centers but has on occasion shown the ability to harass perimeter players. "He's really strong so you don't get to back him up so I guess your only hope is to probably be a little taller and a lot more athletic to get shots off cleanly. He just knocks you off your line where you are trying to get to on the court," Wilson stated.

"He has a 6-8 power forward body that has a small forward skill set. I think he's still developing his perimeter skill level," observed Franchize All-Star AAU Coach Terrul Henderson. "He has above average athletic ability and gets off the ground really well. He can face the basket and put it on the floor from the three-point line in. He finishes way over the rim and rebounds the ball very well. He has a good power game around the basket.

"Defensively as he matures he will be a great defender. A lot of times young kids with that kind of size and skill level concentrate on their offensive game. Until they're able to hone in on and work to be a good defensive player they don't realize their ability to play defense. He definitely has the athleticism to be a defensive impact guy. Anybody his size he has the defensive ability to neutralize and contain them," Henderson said.

"The mental toughness part and the maturity to know his skill level and be able to use it consistently is the key," stated Henderson projecting the young player's chances of ascending to success at the next level of competition. "I believe he has a bright future."

"Shooting the basketball, running the floor, getting rebounds, playing defense, being a team player and a hype man" are the identified strengths by Carter. "I'm real versatile. My favorite player has always been Carmelo Anthony. I want to play like him," he proclaimed. "I'm going to come in and work really hard everyday, try to help the team get some wins and fill the spot where the coach needs me - whether it's to be a scorer, rebounder, defensive player or just a team player or a hype man.

"I am a good team motivator and can get everyone cranked up to play hard," said Carter enumerating the assets he will bring to a team. "I want to come in and get better and one day be a pro. I like to play defense down low guarding big men, blocking some shots and stopping a player from scoring." He hopes to improve his athleticism, ball-handling and continue efforts to polish his overall game.

The past weekend's visit to Oxford did nothing to dispel his approval of the Ole Miss program. "It was great. I enjoyed my time. I met all the players and connected with them and bonded with all the coaches. I liked the town. I liked everything," Carter replied.

The Alabama campus will be this weekend's destination for the Crescent City native. The Crimson Tide coaching staff took notice last summer after viewing Carter's performance at the Reebok All-American camp in Philadelphia. Their interest in the big man waned through the year but gradually intensified near the end of the current season. Anthony Grant's recent visit to the private school in Humble made an impression on the 18-year-old Carter. "I really like him. He seems to be a real cool and calm person," he stated. "He is the type of person who likes players with character. He seemed like a great person." Assistant coach Antoine Pettway made in-roads as well with the personable Carter. "I think he's a really great coach, a great guy. We vibed a little bit and got to know each other better so I think he's real cool."

Grant has visited the Lone Star state a few times seeking the services of the talented non-committed forward. According to Wilson, he likes Carter's competitive spirit and believes the skill set is well-suited for the program's system. Alabama's offense of picking and popping out for open shots, pick and roll with their big players is similar to the offensive sets of his high school team.

"Additionally they (Alabama) feel he has enough athletic ability, speed and quickness to play the up tempo style defense they use," Wilson volunteered. The defensive strategy of an aggressive man-to-man system along with multiple trapping utilized by CLCA will benefit Carter on the college level. "I like a team that runs and presses a little bit," he said.

His comfort zone is the three-point line and beyond. "As soon as I can get by half court I can shoot it" he said displaying a sense of humor. "Off the court I like to have fun, study, read, play video games, hang out and get better as a person," he confided.

Alabama and Ole Miss are the top two contenders with Arkansas, Louisiana Tech and other unnamed suitors under consideration. "I'm not rushing. I'm being real patient about my decision so I'm really not anxious," he admitted. "I'm really excited about visiting Alabama this weekend so I can compare the two."

Academics, the strength training program, skill development and opportunities for playing time are prime factors influencing the evaluation process. "The atmosphere when I go up there, how I feel when I'm up there and just how I vibe with everything on campus," stating the abstract attraction he chooses to gauge.

Robust Crimson Tide vibes emanating from the A-Day game crowd will permeate the entire University of Alabama campus. Will the atmospheric avalanche present in Tuscaloosa Saturday mesmerize Carter to believe he can accomplish the two stated goals of helping a collegiate team win and acquire the level of proficiency enabling ascension to the NBA?

Only the vibe master "NOLA" native knows.

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