Men's Basketball: Carter understands and thrives in role as HCC's point guard

March 13, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • HCC point guard Jerel Carter (5) will do whatever is necessary  even rebounding  to help the Hawks succeed.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Jerel Carter admits it.

He’s not normal ... and he embraces that.

When it comes to basketball, the Hagerstown Community College point guard is a different breed.

“My game isn’t normal at all,” Carter said. “Different is good. Normal doesn’t stand out.”

If anything, Carter isn’t normal because he is old school. He is a throwback to the days when a point guard’s job was to run the offense and orchestrate teammates. Scoring is out of his mind ... he doesn’t look up high enough to see the basket.

It worked, for the most part, when he was playing at Madison County High School in Orange, Va. At least for awhile.

“When I was a sophomore on the varsity, we had a big guy and we got in trouble if we didn’t get him the ball,” Carter said. “I got used to playing that way. Later on, my coach always yelled at me for not shooting.”

But now Carter is in college and the normal game is for point guards to push the ball up the floor and head for the basket. That describes the role of Carter’s HCC running mate, Donte Thomas.

That’s what allows the sophomore to be different.

“I catch a lot of heck for not scoring,” he said. “But I don’t have to. I’m surrounded by a lot of shooters and scorers. All I have to do is pass the ball and get them in a position ... and then I have to rebound.

“I’m a more passive person. I look to pass first.”

The proof came early in the season.

“We played Allegany and I didn’t score any points and took only one shot,” Carter said. “I looked down and I ... but then I looked at it and we had won (106-57). I didn’t need to score for this team to win.”

The Carter-Thomas tandem has become a two-headed guard monster for HCC (29-4), which will face Lee (Texas) College at the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., on Monday.

Their games are as opposite as oil and vinegar, but when they are combined, they make a great dressing for the Hawks’ offense.

Carter’s job is to bring the ball up the floor and get the Hawks into an offensive set. For about the first 20 ticks of the 35-second clock, his job is to give HCC’s offense some movement to force opponents out of position.

If that doesn’t work, the last 15 seconds belong to Thomas, who gets the ball to take advantage of Carter’s work and create a scoring play.

“The coaches are constantly telling me to take control of the ball,” Carter said. “If there’s a turnover, I hear ‘Jerel, take the ball.’ It gets to the point that when I hear my name from the bench, I just tap my chest and accept it.”

But Carter really doesn’t mind. Understanding his role is needed for HCC to win. And since a two-game lull to end the regular season, the acceptance of that role is what allowed the Hawks to go on a seven-game win streak, which led to Maryland JuCo, Region XX and District 3 tournament titles and HCC’s first trip to the nationals since 1994.

“We take turns on the possessions,” Carter said of his work with Thomas. “When it comes to taking the ball to the bucket, I give it over to Donte.

“We have just put in a set where we weave the ball up front to get the guys moving and passing the ball. I like it because there were times that we just stood around and watched.”

When Carter scores, he’s sneaky about it. During the March 3 Region XX final against Baltimore, the Panthers ignored him when he had the ball. Carter used that as an invitation to charge the lane and go for a dunk.

“I figured out that I don’t have to force things,” he said.

Carter’s “supporting cast” style adds a level of comfort to the Hawks as they approach the national tournament.

“We’re excited,” Carter said. “We know what to expect, but we don’t know how the games will play out. I look to be the leader on the court — and extension of the coach. If we stay settled down, we can start hoopin’.”

For Carter, the national tournament has many implications.

“My goal is for all of us to live in the moment,” Carter said. “But I know that a lot of people will be out there and there will be a lot of coaches looking at us. I want a scholarship so I can go somewhere and finish my education.”

And that one defining moment.

“If we don’t go out there and win it all, this season will have been wasted,” he said. “We have had so many things happen to this team ... it’s been a hectic year. No one expected us to be here. This is our destiny.”

That isn’t a normal view ... but Jerel Carter is anything but normal.

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