Coach sees changes in Caracter's work ethic

Derrick Caracter has played in four games since serving an early season suspension and Notre Dame coach Bill Barton said he's begun to notice some positive changes in the talented 6-foot-9 Louisville signee.

KINGSTON, R.I. -- The pendulum is swinging upward these days for Derrick Caracter.

Following a well publicized transfer from St. Patrick H.S. in New Jersey, Caracter resurfaced last fall at Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts, where he treaded a rocky path until recently.

The promising but enigmatic 6-9 senior power/forward center drew the ire of Notre Dame Head Coach Bill Barton last month for not buying into his basketball philosophy. As a result, he sat out a number of games from mid to late January before getting reinserted into the Crusader lineup in early February.

It's been the start of what Barton hopes to become a metamorphosis and life changing experience for Caracter, who has become more associated with underachieving than his obvious physical gifts and skill level would suggest.

"I don't like to use the word suspension, but I decided not to play him because he wasn't buying into my philosophy about basketball," Barton reflected. "I've been coaching for a while at Notre Dame, and we have a way we do things."

"He's starting to come around to that way of thinking," he continued. "So he's playing more and is more productive."

Caracter scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds on Friday afternoon at the National Prep School Invitational in Notre Dame's victory over Stone Ridge Prep. He saw limited action on Saturday afternoon in the Crusaders' 109-74 victory over Gulf Shores Academy, scoring four points in just eight minutes of action.

"This was his fourth game, and he actually would have played more tonight but his back got a little sore," Barton said after the Gulf Shores game. "I did not think he played bad tonight -- I just think he got winded, and then his back tightened up on him."

Since the "de facto" suspension, Barton has noticed a change in Caracter's work habits.

"He's been working out more lately off the court as well, and I've been very happy with his progress the last couple of weeks," he said. "He's doing very well in school, and in the grand scheme of things, playing basketball for Bill Barton isn't the most important thing for him right now."

With Notre Dame's recent ouster from the New England Prep School Athletic Council, the Crusaders won't have a chance to play for a postseason crown like many of the opponents they've beaten this season.

For a while, the goal was an undefeated season, but that plan was scuttled late last month when Notre Dame dropped a contest at Fork Union Military Academy.

So despite his erratic past and well documented foibles, Caracter can still look forward to a promising future. Barton may have been tough on him, but it's a good bet that Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino won't be any less demanding next year than his prep school counterpart was this season.

"Derrick still plans on going to Louisville and they still plan on having him," Barton said. "The big thing is that they want him working out and getting in shape."

"He's been working out a lot more lately, lifting a lot of weights -- he's as strong as an ox and has lost a little weight," Barton added. "It's noticeable now that he's lost 12 pounds or so, and if he keeps working, he can get down 20, and when he arrives at Louisville, he will really get going."

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