Keyon Carter Feature
Dec. 15, 2008
Published on HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com (http://hamptonroads.com) Tough times left behind, he's got the look
Keyon Carter couldn't look himself in the eye.
After playing only a few minutes in his first Old Dominion men's basketball exhibition game two years ago, Carter realized he was headed for a redshirt season.
He passed the broad mirror in his on-campus apartment and kept walking.
"I honestly could not look at myself in the mirror," he remembered recently. "It was one of those nights you just feel so disappointed with yourself. I felt a lot of embarrassment. That's one thing I'd always had in my control: getting on the court. And redshirting was very, very hard."
Carter says he has put what he calls that "extremely humbling and difficult" year behind him. After a learning-on-the-job season last year, he has burst into the Monarchs' starting lineup as a redshirt sophomore.
Carter, an athletic 6-foot-8 forward, has averaged 13.5 points and 8 rebounds in starting the past two games. He could get his third consecutive start at 4 p.m. today, when ODU (3-3) hosts North Carolina Central (0-10) at the Constant Center.
The journey from frustrated freshman to sophomore starter wasn't easy.
Really, it began the night Carter watched most of that exhibition game from the bench.
"That was a rough night for me," Carter said. "I did a lot of soul searching."
Did the word transfer come up?
"Definitely," he said. "A whole bunch of words came up that night."
Sitting out a year was hard to swallow for a player who left high school as one of the top players in Florida.
Born in Bronx, N.Y., Carter moved with his family to Florida when he was 6. Carter didn't play on an organized team for the first time until he was 13 - unusually late for a Division I player. Most of his basketball tutoring came on a cement court around the corner from his house in Riviera Beach, along Florida's east coast, against players twice his age.
"That's where I got my jump shot," Carter said. "They're coming home from work and just want to play, and if you go to the hole, they'll take your head off and tell you to get up, and your mouth's all bloody. I saw a lot of teeth get loose out there."
Carter spent three years at Suncoast Community High. Though the academics were rigorous - he was enrolled in the school's International Baccalaureate program - he says the basketball was "sub-par." Carter transferred to play as a senior at Dwyer High, a perennial state power.
"He wanted to come here to get better," Dwyer coach Fred Ross said. "He was a great kid with a lot of potential. He just had to intensify his game and work harder and put more into the game."
Carter's recruitment picked up during his senior season. He signed with Wofford, but later asked for and eventually was granted a release from his letter-of-intent. He then chose the Monarchs after narrowing his list of finalists to include Charlotte, Northeastern and Winthrop.
Carter, though, arrived in Norfolk and found he had more developing to do.
"Early in his career, he had a hard time connecting the dots," ODU coach Blaine Taylor said. "It was a new level of effort and concentration and just a new level of strategy."
After that redshirt season, Carter played only sparingly last year. He earned more playing time as the season progressed and scored a career-high nine points in the season finale against Virginia.
"By the time we got to the U.Va. game, I had put the puzzle together and matched it with effort," Carter said. "It's about relaxing. It's so much to remember, but I learned that I could relax and let it happen."
Now, Carter appears ready to become a key player on an ODU team that features star forward Gerald Lee, who has been drawing constant double-teams.
Carter posted career highs with 14 points and 10 rebounds against Richmond and followed that with 13 points and six boards against Delaware.
"I'm just taking it as an opportunity to show my abilities and help my team win," Carter said.
"It's just getting older. You get older, you mature."
Jami Frankenberry, (757) 446-2295, firstname.lastname@example.org