Carmichael making up for misses

January 26, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

Each time one of his smooth, outside jump shots falls through the net, Keith Carmichael reminds defenses how costly it can be to lose track of him on the court.

Each time Carmichael plays an outstanding game, he leaves another piece of his forgettable sophomore season behind.

And Coppin State's basketball team can't thank him enough for it.

Those who face the Eagles must solve several problems. They must confront a hustling defense that forces turnovers in bunches and often turns them into easy points. They must deal with the inside power of Stephen Stewart and Mario McGriff. Mostly, they must weather a three-point shooting storm that usually is sparked by Carmichael, the 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard with a stroke that makes coaches drool.

"It was definitely the stroke," says Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell, recalling how Carmichael caught his eye while playing high school ball in Camden, N.J., one of Mitchell's favorite recruiting haunts. "Keith could shoot the basketball and score. If you're going to win at this level, you've got to have good guards, and he fit the mold."

Carmichael has been giving opponents fits all season. His deadly outside shooting is one of the main reasons Coppin State (11-7, 5-0) has won a league-record 24 straight games against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Eagles are going after their second straight perfect season in the MEAC.

Carmichael is second on the Eagles with a 16.3-point scoring average. And on a team that adores the three-pointer -- more than one-third of the Eagles' shots have been launched from beyond the arc -- Carmichael is the undisputed long-range leader.

He has made 105 of 243 shots (.432), including 67 of 168 three-point attempts (40 percent). His 67 threes have put him within striking distance of Reggie Isaac's single-season record of 83. Nine times this season, Carmichael has made at least four three-pointers.

All of which makes Carmichael shrug, while barely cracking a smile.

"I don't even look at the papers," he says. "And I don't go out and say I'm going to do this or that. Whatever comes to me, comes to me. That's how I was in high school. I never said anything to anybody, because you never know when you're going to have an off night."

Carmichael knows all about off nights. Most of last season was one, long off night for him. After a promising freshman year in which hestarted 20 of 27 games and averaged 11 points, Carmichael approached his sophomore season with high hopes. Instead, he got a taste of the sophomore jinx.

First, he struggled badly during the preseason. Then, the shots refused to fall during the December games. By the time the year ended, Carmichael had started only two of 30 games, had averaged 6.9 points -- although he did make 42 of 120 three-pointers (35 percent) -- and had faded into the background of the Eagles' 22-8 season.

"For whatever reason, he never really got into a rhythm," Mitchell says. "We were waiting for him to snap out of it. Every game, we were saying this is going to be it for him. But he would have a good game and come back the next time and be inconsistent."

Says Carmichael: "After the first two exhibitions, I didn't feel comfortable, and I never got back on track. After my first year, everybody knew I could score. Last year, I didn't show that. I felt I slumped the whole season. I had to work on my shooting. I had to make that more consistent."

For the first time, Carmichael realized his natural talent would not make obstacles disappear magically. He decided to attack the game with renewed vigor. He returned home and played in the Sonny Hill League, a highly competitive summer college league in Philadelphia. He also decided, in another first, to make conditioning a top priority by hitting the weight room.

Sidney Goodman, the Eagles' junior point guard who also hails from Camden and played with Carmichael last summer, says Carmichael is a different player this year.

"I see a big difference in his [Carmichael's] mind-set. He's a lot hungrier, and he's harder on himself. I guess that's one reason why he's so good," Goodman says. "We helped each other over the summer. And he's helped my game dramatically. Keith knows he's going to get the ball. He's our best three-point shooter, and we're going to find him."

Or as Mitchell says: "A lot of people sit around waiting for their ship to come in, but he's a prime example of a kid who has worked hard trying to be better, and he has positive results from it."

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