Coming up big in new role

Boys basketball: Matching up against larger players inside, former shooting guard and small forward Paris Carter of Lake Clifton has met the challenge.

January 28, 2004|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

On the first day of practice in mid-November, Paris Carter walked onto the basketball court at Lake Clifton High, looked around and saw his future.

"At the first tryout, I saw that I was the biggest player in the gym," said Carter, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound senior who had played primarily as a shooting guard and small forward the previous year.

With the graduation of 6-7 All-Metro player Tavon Nelson and 6-8 Kyle Garrison, Carter said he "knew I'd have to play a different role, be under the boards more."

And 13 games into the season, the returning All-City/County and second-team All-Metro player is thriving in his new role, averaging 19 points and 14 rebounds as he uses his strength and quickness to his advantage.

In a 51-44 victory Jan. 20 over visiting Northwestern, Carter held 6-9 Demetrius Phillips to two points while scoring 14. In last month's Wes Unseld Classic, Phillips averaged 12 points in a loss to Dunbar and a win over Milford Mill.

In a 14-point victory last month over Eleanor Roosevelt of Prince George's County, Carter limited 6-10, 300-pound Jared Gaither, a Maryland-bound football lineman, to four points while he scored 25 and grabbed 17 rebounds. This was against a player whose 17 points and 11 rebounds would later spark a victory over then-No. 1 Archbishop Spalding.

"[Gaither] was like having a mountain on my back. The first time we made contact, I knew it was going to be a long day. But I had to get up under him, push him out so he couldn't get any easy layups or rebounds," Carter said. "I was able to swing the ball outside and get open shots when he had trouble staying with me. I went to the basket strong and challenged him. But it wasn't easy."

The fact that the fifth-ranked Lakers are 10-3 has a lot to do with Carter's sacrifice.

"I'm demanding a lot of Paris by asking him to play defense, come down and score himself. He's playing in the paint more, almost a center position, so his role has changed," said coach Herman Harried, whose Lakers are defending Baltimore City and Class 4A North region champs. "He's an excellent three-point shooter, but he's not taking as many as last year."

Still, Carter, who converts 85 percent of his free throws, gets opportunities from the outside.

"Shooting from the outside, playing on the wing - I still want him to work on those skills," said Harried, whose Lakers were 19-5 last winter. "We have sets where he gets to step away and shoot, bring the ball up the court some."

Carter "had an idea during the offseason" that he might have to resolve himself to being a more physical presence under the basket.

So in addition to his steady diet of club ball and running, shooting and sprint drills, he practiced boxing out and rebounding. Nature took care of the rest, said Carter, who grew 2 inches taller and added muscle without weightlifting.

"Paris is just naturally big, and he's a tough guy on the court who is able to put a good forearm on a guy," said Lakers' guard Chester Frazier. "But it's not all on him. He knows that I can knock the shot down, I'm open, or he can take the shot if he's open. Either way, we're going to get the shot knocked down."

In his office at school, Harried has boxes full of letters from college recruiters who have expressed interest in Carter.

"I think they see him as a No. 2 [shooting guard] or No. 3 [small forward] player in college, so this is helping him become more of an inside-outside player, more of a complete player," Harried said. "He can shoot, he can handle the ball, he can defend. Most guys who can play the wing like he can, they would have resisted rather than accept the new role. Paris has shown how great of a competitor he is."

But Carter knows his job is far from over.

"All year, I've got to play equally hard on defense as well as on offense, going against big people, fighting with them on the post and then having to go down and score for the team," Carter said. "I knew from the very first game that it wasn't going to be easy, but it's something I came in prepared to do. I'm learning to guard post players more this season, and it's going to make me a much better, more complete player."

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