Patterson basketball star Aquille Carr every bit as good as advertised

Living up to hype surrounding him is tall order, but 5-foot-7 guard rises above

February 27, 2011|By Kevin Cowherd

I saw a basketball prodigy light up a frozen February night last week.

I saw Aquille Carr, Patterson's sensational 5-foot-7 sophomore point guard, go for 32 points in the Clippers' 75-59 win over City in the Baltimore City League Division I championship.

Time after time, in front of a packed house at Morgan State, I saw him race the length of the floor as if turbo-charged, levitate to the rim in traffic, hang there long enough to check his text messages, then finish with a layup or a nice dish to an open teammate.

And in the second half, when Carr exploded for 25 points and Patterson began to pull away, I watched City coach Mike Daniel pace alongside his bench and shake his head helplessly, suddenly looking like a man stricken with severe indigestion.

"Aquille Carr asserted himself — that's it," Daniel said simply when asked what happened to his Knights in the second half. "He did what he usually does the whole game — you can't stop the kid."

Yeah, the kid has a little game. And if you follow sports in this town, you've probably heard about him, the breathless accounts of his quickness and paralyzing first step, his jumping ability, his ankle-breaking moves.

But you have to see him in person to appreciate how he takes over a game. And I caught him on a down night — well, sort of.

Yes, he finished with 32 points, four assists and eight steals against City. But he scored only seven points in the first half — mainly because of foul trouble — and the huge crowd at Morgan was getting restless waiting for some typical Aquille Carr highlights.

"I didn't play my best," he said outside Patterson's locker room after the game. "But I helped us win the game."

The fact is, he has helped No. 1 Patterson to plenty of wins this season, averaging 32 points to lead the Clippers to a 21-1 record (10-0 against city teams).

"He knows it's a big stage, everything's on the line, everybody's expecting a big game from him, his coach is counting on him, his teammates are counting on him — and every night he delivers," his coach, Harry Martin, said.

And with each big game he has, the word goes out around the city and the legend of Aquille Carr grows.

As a 5-foot-6 freshman last year, he dunked on City's terrific guard, Nick Faust, who was a 6-foot-3 junior then.

The dunk rocked the gym, and cell phones all over Baltimore blew up with text messages about the feat. And Faust, who scored 25 points in his team's loss the other night and has committed to playing at Maryland next year, still gets grief about how Carr abused him.

Just last week, Carr added to his growing reputation as a big-game player when he hit the winning 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left against then-No. 4 Edmondson, finishing with 29 points.

No wonder the kid has become such a must-see phenomenon.

When I got to Morgan, an hour before the Patterson-City game, there were at least 300 people in line to buy tickets to see him play.

At Patterson, the 800-seat gym fills in a hurry for the 5 p.m. varsity games — kids start lining up right after school for a chance to see Carr. He packs the gym when the Clippers play on the road, too.

"The crime in East Baltimore probably goes down during our games," Martin said with a chuckle.

Inevitably, Carr has been compared to a couple of local little-guy legends who shone in high school, Mugsy Bogues (Dunbar) and Shawnta Rogers (Lake Clifton). He started getting feelers from colleges his freshman year, and now the mail is pouring in.

"Virginia Tech, Memphis, Xavier, Kentucky," he began when I asked which schools had contacted him. "Arizona, Texas, Wake Forest, Syracuse … want me to keep going?"

Uh, no, that's OK.

"About 28 schools in all," he added helpfully.

Fine, I said. But since you're just a sophomore, those schools are simply expressing an interest at this point, right?

"Offering," he said, flashing a 1,000-kilowatt smile.

Then, fearing I had misunderstood, he added: "A scholarship."

Oh.

The fact is, though, that as dazzling as he is, Carr is far from a finished product.

"He's got to work on being more consistent from the outside … and bringing a more consistent level of defense," Martin said.

But those seem like minor quibbles, like complaining about the floor mats on a Ferrari. And within seconds, Martin is back to gushing about his star point guard.

"I haven't seen anyone who can stay with him," the coach said. "Pound for pound, inch for inch, he's the best player in the country."

Now Carr and the Clippers set their sights on the Class 4A North regional playoffs, beginning with a home game Monday against Dulaney.

A word of advice to Matt Lochte, Dulaney's coach: Think about going zone against this kid.

And saying a few Hail Marys, too.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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