Sunday, August 24, 2008

Remember the Name Derrick Caracter

We at BIAH have been outspoken about the problems with offering scholarships to kids that are still 13 and 14 year old middle schoolers. In my mind, there is nothing wrong with recruiting kids this age. Well, "nothing wrong" might not be the right words, but in today's college basketball landscape, coaches need to know who the best 8th and 9th graders are because, like it or not, early contact is the key to recruiting. It is still risky, because at that age it is so hard to project how big or athletic a kid will end up, but if any D1 coach doesn't know who the best freshman are in his area, then he's doing something wrong.

Hopefully, from this point forward, whenever the conversation of recruiting younger players is brought up, people will remember the name Derrick Caracter. Caracter was the first 8th grader to ever be invited to the Nike Camp back in 2002, when he was a 6'8" 14 year old. Everyone labeled him as the next big thing, as the second coming of Shaq. Well, it just so happens that Caracter never grew any more, and is now simply your run-of-the-mill, 6'8" 20 year old.

There-in lies the problem with recruiting kids that young. Caracter was so successful because he was already fully grown, even though he was yet to hit high school age-wise. So what happened? He lost his work ethic. He stopped trying because he thought he would always just be bigger and better than everyone else. Yes, Caracter stopped growing, and 6'8" is fairly small for a power forward, but you're telling me Caracter couldn't play a Paul Millsap-type role for someone?

Here is a quote from Rick Pitino regarding Caracter:

"Anybody who doesn't understand how to work -- that working is what they must do to reach their potential -- is going to fall short of their goals," Louisville's Rick Pitino said late Sunday by phone. "Derrick never realized that. He's a smart kid, a bright young man. But Derrick has fooled himself in terms of how much work it takes to be a pro. When he stopped growing and everybody caught up, it became about whoever is the toughest and whoever works the hardest, and that's what he never got used to doing. Derrick could never outwork someone to survive."
Caracter thought that he had already made it, that he could coast his way through high school and college to the riches of the NBA. He couldn't.

Caracter will be playing next season at NAIA Oklahoma City University. He had fallen in and out of favor with Louisville Head coach Rick Pitino during his tumultuous two-year career. He was initially kicked off the team in April, but Pitino had allowed him to sit out the 2008-09 season to prove himself worthy of a spot on the 2009-10 roster.

Here are two other examples of highly touted eighth-graders who never lived up to those lofty expectations. The first is Demond Carter, better known as Tweety Carter. Everyone knows about Caracter being the first eighth grader invited to the Nike Camp, but Carter was an eighth grader in 2002 as well and also attended the camp. Where is he now? The fifth leading scorer for Baylor. When Andre Allen was in eighth grade he was considered the best player in the country at his age. He never grew another inch, and ended up not even a top 100 recruit, averaging a whopping 4.2 ppg in his Memphis career, and eventually getting suspended for the Final Four for smoking weed.

Maybe both sides need to learn something from Caracter, and to a lesser extent Carter and Allen. These uber-talented kids need to know that their work ethic is what will take them from being just another highly recruited high school player to a successful professional, and that just because they can succeed based on raw athleticism and talent at a young age, eventually the rest of the world will catch up. But coaches need to realize (and I'm sure they already do) that just because a 14 year old is a star, it doesn't necessarily mean that he will be the next Lebron James or Micheal Beasley.


joe said...

great post. unfortunate last name for a guy like him

Rob Dauster said...

Ha, yea I know right.

Anonymous said...

Caracter just signed a two year deal w/ the Lakers. Derrick Caracter will be a solid NBA player if not a great one. Sometimes we do build young players up too much but sometimes we are too quick to give up on them also.