"In Kevin's first year at Vanderbilt, Dan Langhi goes from not even an all-conference player to SEC Player of the Year," said Smith. "You look at the fact that Matt Freije has come in at the 3-guard position, and now he's one of 50 finalists for the John Wooden Award.
"Then you realize that back at Illinois State, Dan Muller was his 3-guard, and look at the records and accolades he got there. If you dig even further into Kevin Stallings' days at Kansas with Roy Williams, he helped develop several 3-guards there. So it was just a natural fit for DeMarre'."
DeMarre' (pronounced da-MAR-ray) Carroll, a 6-foot-7, 192-pound senior guard/forward, announced his commitment to Vanderbilt Thursday and plans to sign with the Commodores in November. Smith said Carroll and teammate Ronald Steele, a guard committed to Alabama, were instrumental in John Carroll's amazing run to the Alabama 6A championship last season.
"We had four guys average in double figures, and DeMarre' was one of the four," Smith said. "He transferred in here [from Birmingham-Minor High School], and he came in and played his role. There were some games where he'd get double figures in rebounds, and there were games when he'd score up in the 20's or low 30's in points. He just fit in with the team.
"We played him at the 3 and the 4. DeMarre' is very long-- he plays longer than 6-7. Up until his freshman year in high school he always played point guard. From the end of his eighth grade year through his freshman year, he really started growing, and he's still continuing to grow.
"He's very, very athletic. He shoots the ball well, though he's more of a slasher. But he's a fantastic rebounder."
Smith emphasized that Carroll possesses exceptional ball-handling skills for a player of his size, and compared him to Auburn's Marquis Daniels in that regard.
"A lot of people thought he was along the lines of Daniels, because of the fact that he can handle the ball so well, and the fact that he can do so many things outside," said Smith. "But yet he's so long, he can go inside and play the 4.
"When Ronald Steele was not playing the point, we asked DeMarre' to bring the ball up at point guard and run the break. I felt very comfortable letting him do that, and I think Vanderbilt would as well."
The pair led John Carroll all the way to the 6A state championship game, played last March before 12,000 fans in the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. In a thriller that left onlookers breathless, the Cavaliers came from behind in the last minute to win the game and complete a perfect 36-0 season.
"Ronald Steele scored the shot that put us ahead, and then DeMarre' scored the final points of the game on a dunk," remembers Smith.
Smith said Stallings and Vanderbilt had showed an early interest in both Carroll and Steele. The pair received tremendous exposure after winning the state championship, but the fact that Vanderbilt had been interested all along played a key role in Carroll's choice.
"They've been interested in DeMarre' since day one, since last summer," Smith said. "They were interested in both Ronald and DeMarre', but they treated them as separate entities, not as a package deal. I think that was one thing that impressed DeMarre', that Vanderbilt wanted him a long time ago."
Smith said Carroll is a full 6-7, still growing, and weighs a full 192 pounds. He also has quite a bit of basketball in his blood.
"His father Ed was a scholarship player at College of Charleston for a year, and then transferred to Samford," said Smith. "He's got a brother, DeAndre', right now who's playing at UAB. So he understands what he's got to do to play in college."
Carroll is also the nephew of UAB head coach Mike Anderson, whom Vandy fans may remember as a longtime assistant to Arkansas' Nolan Richardson. Since DeMarre's brother DeAndre' also plays for the local Blazers, many had assumed Carroll would wind up at UAB.
North Carolina State, Auburn, Ole Miss and Marquette had all also shown interest, according to Smith.
Carroll played this summer for the AAU Alabama Lasers along with Ronald Steele. "He hurt an ankle early in the summer, and it just never healed," said Smith. "That's because he never took any time off. So he had a good summer, but maybe not an outstanding summer."
Carroll is the son of Ed and Cynthia Carroll, and his father Ed is a pastor in Birmingham. Smith said that off the court DeMarre' is a quiet, gentle young man that young children are naturally drawn to.
"Children seem to love him, and to see how he gets along with little children is just a really special thing," Smith said.
Photos courtesy of autigers.com