You Can't Spell Team without Matt Carter

OK, the title is a cliche, but within his name is the word team. Matt Carter is possibly one of the more interesting athletes that I have had the pleasure to interview. The 6-foot-3 senior guard from Houston appeared in only six of Vandy's 32 games last season, and logged only 21 minutes. But Carter cares little about personal glory or highlight films. He loves to play basketball and loves his team.

This summer Carter has been working to improve what he sees as his weak points, particularly shooting and overall strength and conditioning. Carter is Vanderbilt's only senior, and he leads by example. Coach Kevin Stallings refers to Matt as a leader and a solid contributor to the team-- a contributor in ways that most fans will never see. According to Stallings, Matt helps the younger players adapt to campus life, to the coach's system, and to the discipline required to achieve success in the SEC.

Matt works out nearly every day, whether it's weightlifting, a cardiovascular workout, or a pickup game at Memorial. He is there giving 100%, all that he knows, just to keep playing and to continue being a part of Vanderbilt basketball. He leads in the classroom too-- he is on pace to graduate next spring with a double major in Civil Engineering and Mathematics. He knows the classroom as well as the basketball court, and his teammates recognize his effort.

During the summer Matt has seen all the players at Memorial, both incoming freshmen and veterans. I asked him about the freshmen, and who has caught his eye. Very eloquently (and politically), he said that all the freshmen looked great and each will be able to contribute. They have all been on campus and seem to be forming a solid bond with each other and the returning players.

One freshman Matt noted is Adam Payton. Matt is impressed with this young man and believes he will have a greater impact than most fans believe. This, he quickly points out is not favoritism, but an honest answer to my question.

When asked how this affected Matt, considering that Payton could definitely take minutes away from Matt, his answer was that the team is far more important. Matt seemingly does not care about playing time; he worries about what he can do at practice to make himself and the team better. He went on to say that if a freshman helps the team achieve its goal of making the NCAA's, that's what he wants. Personally, as a fan sitting up in 3F, I love that type of talk.

Of the returning players, Matt noted Brian Thornton and David Przybyszeweski as players who have improved over the summer. Thornton has been working out on weights very hard this summer, and Matt believes he may have a monster season.

When Carter mentioned Przybyszewski, I admit I was surprised. Carter said that there have been several games where David has taken control at both ends of the floor and dominated the game. Przybyszewski too has been working on strength and possibly added 5-10 lbs. Carter believes firmly that the team will excel this year.

Asked about his expectations for the upcoming season, Carter was very clear-- the NCAA Tournament. The team got a good taste of post-season play with the NIT last year, he said, but now has its sights set on higher goals. I inquired about the schedule (just released), and Carter said that this will help the team much more than playing an softer schedule. The beefed-up schedule should result in more TV exposure for the club, more national recognition, and a higher level of competition. Carter really likes the games at Indiana, Notre Dame and Michigan, and sees them as early tests to gauge the team's readiness for SEC play.

I asked what the key for the upcoming season would be-- thinking defense, athletic ability, shooters-- and Matt's answer was simple. "Everyone has to learn to work hard everyday," he replied. "You can't just show up at a few practices a week and play great in games. For this team to win a lot this year, everyone has to give it their all everyday during the entire season."

Finally, I asked whether Matt might consider a career in coaching. He laughed a bit, and rightfully so. He has worked very hard academically at Vandy and wants to put that education to work. He did not rule out the possibility, but said that he still has a year to figure out exactly what he is going to do. This is a guy I can cheer for, hands down, no questions asked. Matt is a student-athlete, with emphasis on student first. He walked on and plays at Vanderbilt because he loves the game and the school. He leads by example and gives 100%, because that is what he believes. Although he may ride the bench most of the year, he is an important part of the team and gives more than most of us fans will ever know.

As a fan I say, thanks, Matt. Give us some highlights this year. Top Stories