Undersized Carr a freshman phenom for Patterson

5-foot-6 point guard is already one of Baltimore's top players

February 20, 2010|By By Glenn Graham

The snow was on its way when City visited Patterson on Feb. 2, but that didn't stop anybody from doing what has become routine when a boys basketball game takes place at the East Baltimore school this season.

The line outside begins to form shortly after school lets out - about 3:30 p.m. - and with extra security on hand, the gym doors open. Show up any later and you might not get in.

It means sitting through the junior varsity game until the varsity starts after 5, but there haven't been any complaints.

Everyone is there to see the home team's dynamic point guard Aquille Carr, who fearlessly leads the No. 13 Clippers, brazenly challenges opposing players of all sizes and constantly keeps the 800-plus supporters on the edge of their prized seats.

Oh yeah, Carr, 16, is all of 5 feet 6 and 155 pounds - the smallest player on the court for every game he has played this season - and he's only a freshman.

"He knows that people are coming to see him play, and that's one of the things that impresses me the most," Patterson coach Harry Martin said. "To know that you've got half of East Baltimore coming and wanting to see you do well, that's a lot of pressure for any kid, let alone a freshman. With all of that, he's come up big night after night."

On this particular Tuesday, it takes less than three minutes for Carr to stun the crowd.

Dribbling by defenders to find open floor down the right side, he goes strong to the basket with City's 6-foot-3 senior guard Nick Faust coming over from the left.

Carr rises higher and higher, prepares himself for the coming contact - and emphatically finishes with a dunk.

After pounding his chest and flashing his bigger-than-life smile, he heads down the court and gets ready to buckle down on defense.

In an instant, it became the dunk heard around Baltimore City.

"I was at the Lake Clifton-Dunbar game that night, and there were folks texting one another saying he had just dunked. They said he rocked the gym," Baltimore City Schools director of athletics and former Dunbar basketball coach Bob Wade said.

Carr drives the lane like it's his very own with an uncanny feel for steering his body through taller traffic, but that's only the flashy part of his complete game.

In leading Patterson to a 14-6 record, he's averaging 25.2 ppg, 8.3 assists and 5.5 steals - showing poise beyond his years and hard-nosed play that has grown contagious with teammates.

As for all the questions about his size and how he handles going against bigger and older competition, Carr, who is working hard on improving his "C" average in the classroom, shrugs them off like would-be defenders.

He's aware of the impact he is making, and he's comfortable with all the attention. He has already received letters from Division I programs Arkansas and Memphis letting him know he's on their radar.

"It really hasn't been all that hard," Carr said. "And I don't really think about it all that much because it's been like this since I was little."

Carr played on his first organized team when he was 4, encouraged by his older brother Alan Jr., a former standout running back at Lake Clifton, to work on his dribbling skills more than shooting the ball at first.

Through middle school, every organized team he played on, he was two or three years younger than everybody else. By the time he was a teenager, Carr was regularly playing and holding his own in unlimited adult leagues.

"Since he was little, he's always played with the older guys, so he's used to it. All the pushing and banging that goes on, he just learned to play through anything," said Carr's father, Alan Sr.

Aquille Carr added: "It just started to come, and I never stayed the same. If I did good in one tournament, I would do a little better in the next one. My father always tells me you can't do well one year and the next year stay there - you always have to work on getting better."

For Carr, who says basketball is his life, it has never been a problem.

When there's a basketball in his hand, there's often the big smile on his face.

"I play every day - never take a break," he said. "Whenever you take a break, somebody else is working. So I try to be doing more than what others are doing. In another state, there's another Aquille, so you never stop - got to keep going, keep on going."

His first varsity season has drawn rave reviews, with many in the city's basketball circle comparing him to former Lake Clifton great Shawnta Rogers. Carr is proud of the comparison.

"I'm a little taller than him," he laughs. "But I like it because he's tough. And you've got to be tough if you're going to be little."

In Carr's first game against Dundalk, a 71-46 win Dec. 9, he scored 24 points, had 13 assists and finished with 11 steals.

Against then-No. 6 Lake Clifton on Jan. 19, all the talk going into the game was the matchup between Carr and Lakers standout senior point guard Josh Selby, who is rated the country's fourth best senior by Rivals.com.

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