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Monarch Insider No. 21-Keyon Carter

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: February 21, 2011
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Feb. 21, 2011

Monarch Insider No. 21 - Keyon Carter Carter fights through shooting slump, helped by ODU fans

Brendan O'Hallarn Monarch Basketball Insider

We all have them. Those days at the office where it seems like nothing goes right. You try, you do your best, but things simply don't work out the way you intended. Here's the difference between us and Monarchs senior forward Keyon Carter: Our tough days at the office are witnessed by our boss and other co-workers.

Keyon's "bad days," - which included a pronounced shooting slump earlier this season, where Carter felt like the basket was shrunk down to carnival-game size - were witnessed by 8,000 fans at every home game, plus thousands more watching on television or listening on the radio.

"It's been rough," Carter said of his shooting woes. "Especially when you come in with the expectations I came into with this year. I started off pretty good, but I just hit a rut. It's tough, because every game is one game lost. I'm just grateful that we were able to maintain a solid record and win, even though I was struggling offensively."

I talked with Keyon last summer, just before the start of the team's training camp. He had just spent a few weeks working one-on-one with former ODU big man Cal Bowdler. His game, and his body, looked to be in fantastic shape.

Then a scoreless game with a few turnovers became a prolonged stretch of futility at putting the ball in the basket. And despite being the strongest guy on the team, Carter has been an offense-first player for the Monarchs. He admits that when his shot isn't falling, it sometimes crosses over to other parts of his game

Carter, however, is also one of the Monarchs' most thoughtful players. He looked inside himself for reasons why he was in a slump.

"It was honestly just a mental thing. As the year progressed, I kind of came to a few realizations about the future and it bugged me as a ballplayer," he said. "Everybody thinks that you're going to play forever. That was kind of weighing on my mind a lot. The end. It was a tough pill to swallow."

And since his "job" is a very public one, Carter had to answer questions about his lack of scoring touch during his senior season wherever he went around the ODU campus. But ironically, that's one of the things that helped him work out of his funk.

"The thing that really brought me through it was the fans," he said. "Even off the court, I try to get out in the community and meet people. And everybody I talked to when I was in that rut was giving me words of encouragement. It really showed me that they cared and it helped.

"The fans kept encouraging me, and I talked with a few people, they just let me realize this is the last time I'll be playing in front of thousands of cheering people, with great teammates, and just to enjoy it. That's the kind of perspective I've taken on it now. Just enjoy my senior year on a great team. It's kind of taken the pressure off."

And lately, the results have shown. Carter isn't scoring at the same rate he was late last season, when he frequently was the team's second leading scorer after Gerald Lee. At the end of last season, Carter hit the clinching free throws against Notre Dame in ODU's NCAA Tournament upset. But he's showing signs of rounding into that form, and he's become more active in other facets of his game as his confidence grows.

Sunday's thrilling 74-63 win over Cleveland State is an example. Carter hit only one outside shot. But he ended up with 14 points but taking the ball aggressively to the basket, one time for a thunderous, one-handed dunk.

"It's extremely satisfying. I couldn't have picked a better game to come out and play well, not only for me but for my teammates," he said afterwards.

Carter has a big fan in new Old Dominion Athletic Director Wood Selig. "Keyon was the first student-athlete I met when I started at ODU. I was so impressed with his enthusiasm for ODU and his character. I walked away from this initial meeting thinking if all ODU student-athletes are like Keyon Carter then I have struck gold with regards to the 440 student-athletes who represent ODU so well."

Carter is also the favorite player of Selig's 13-year-old son Lex. Sometimes Carter wishes he could be like teammate Ben Finney, whose confidence is unshakeable. "I'm more conscious of trying to will it in. He has more of a Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson mentality - that every shot's a good shot," he said. I kind of envy Ben's mentality of `This one's going in. I don't care if I missed (a bunch) in a row.'"

Part of why Carter felt frustrated about his lack of performance is he LOVES being a Monarch. He loves the area, having come to ODU from Riviera Beach, Fla., to play basketball five years ago. Carter gave a long, thoughtful speech thanking the fans at last week's Monarch Breakfast.

"I love the community, the fans here, and the Old Dominion tradition. Hopefully I'll be able to find a job in the area, so I'll be able to stick around, start a family and make a life here," he said. "I'm not planning on leaving anytime soon. I've made a lot of good friends here."

He's also confident that both he and the Monarchs are going to finish this season strong.

"This season could have gone better for me, but you flip on the TV and you see a lot of other teams that are struggling. We're sitting lovely at 21-6 (now 22-6) coming down the stretch. I could be doing better, but as a team, we could be a whole lot worse."

Brendan O'Hallarn, an employee in public relations at Old Dominion University, writes Monarch Basketball Insider. To see other stories, please see the Monarch Insider website, at http://www.odusports.com/ot/monarch-insider.html. If you would like to share your thoughts about ODU basketball, or have a story you'd like to see Brendan write, contact him at brendanwork@hotmail.com.

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