Delaware commit Andrew Carr (above) and West Chester East have made a ton of progress in three years. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Ray Dunne (@RayDunneBTB)
This time three years ago, West Chester East was amidst a three-win season and hadn’t been to the PIAA state playoffs since 2002.
The program had a hardly 6-foot-tall guard named Andrew Carr, struggling through pain as he fought to finish his freshman year.
Tom Durant had been out of local high school basketball coaching since 2003.
Now, the script has been flipped, thanks in no small part to the emergence of Carr as a top talent in Durant’s redone West Chester East program. That’s why Thursday night’s festivities looked more like a team’s celebration than an individual’s, in spite of Carr being the storyline after scoring his 1000th point in his high school career.
“It’s this program. It’s not just Andrew. He helps the program. He’s making young kids want to be him,” Durant said of his star, beaming about how one player may inspire a generation of success at West Chester East.
Currently standing at 6-foot-10, Carr isn’t like most of the kids that his third-year head coach alludes to. However, the Delaware commit stands at the center of the incredible turnaround of West Chester East that has generated a buzz around the team.
It’s noticeable when the noise from the Vikings’ student section makes Downingtown West’s gym feel like a neutral site at best. It’s clear when, after the game has been long over, there is a collection of people just on the gym floor to be there for the moment that Carr acknowledges his feat for the second time of the evening.
Andrew Carr celebrates scoring his 1000th high school point with his family on Jan. 9, 2019. (Photo: Ray Dunne/CoBL)
“This has been life-changing for me. I think having the chance to be looked at as a program-changer is something that I’ve been looking for and it’s been a really awesome experience to be able to do that,” Carr said. “It just really means a lot that we can kind of change history for West Chester East.”
Helping the program grow didn’t come without literal growing pains for the big man.
He spent the majority of his freshman year in pain, fighting through Osgood-Schlatter’s in his knees. His body was preparing to go from a decent-sized guard to a full sized big man in just a few months between his freshman and sophomore years.
The spurt put Carr in a unique position. For years, he had primarily served as a ball handler and was working towards being a point guard as he drew closer to high school. After shooting up over half a foot of height in a summer, he needed to readjust how he was going to approach back to a familiar way.
“When I was growing up, I was kind of how I am now, very versatile, trying to play the inside and out so I learned from being smaller to be able to handle the ball pretty well,” Carr said. “I think that really helped my transition because I already had the footwork on the inside even though I was playing on the outside. Once I hit my growth spurt, I was really able to take over and put both together.”
Every aspect of this was on display as Carr turned in 18 points with five rebounds and three assists over the course of West Chester East’s 62-51 win over Downingtown West to push his Vikings to a 10-1 record overall and a 4-1 record in the Ches-Mont.
All of this comes to fruition as he is able to work defenders into the post with his dribbling and then show off a quality post move into an opportunity. Those who can’t match his size are left to hope for a miss as they watch him create plenty of space for a bucket.
West Chester East coach Tom Durant is in his third year with the Vikings. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
This quality footwork comes from a number of places, according to Carr. Part of it comes from a number of years as a travel lacrosse player where he believes playing a defenseman prepared him to pay extra close attention to his footwork.
The other part comes from a family of basketball looking out for his success. His father, Phil, and uncle, Tim, both of whom also played collegiately at Delaware in the 1980s, have been working him on these things to keep him one step ahead of the competition.
“They’ve done a great job for me,” Andrew said of the older Carrs. “Everything was just working with them and being taught by them and because they knew the game so well from playing at such a high level, they were able to teach me everything that they knew and it’s really helped me.”
The main selling point for the Blue Hens was the state of the program and the big-man’s interest in the school’s impressive physical therapy program, which is what he plans to do post-college graduation.
Phil Carr was very clear that he left everything up to his son and didn’t want his own past to dictate the outcome of Andrew’s career. He’s just thrilled to be a part of a college program once again.
The one reservation about watching his son is how difficult it can be to an entire bystander to the game at hand. That’s just the former player in him.
“It’s hard. I don’t mean that in a physical way, but it’s hard. It’s so exciting that he’s going to Delaware as well,” Phil said. “That part was really good, really exciting. It’s harder to watch the game than I thought it would be. Honest to god, It’s a lot of fun but it’s harder to watch.”
When it comes to the most accomplished in the household, Phil is quick to point to Andrew as the one. After all, he’s been the leader of his high school’s push to prominence in the Ches-Mont and beyond.
His natural gifts and work ethic combined nicely into being a tall “point forward” that creates nightmare match-ups for opponents. His talent alone would make for a good player too.
All are indicative of the point his father makes. However, the difference maker that Durant sees in the senior’s success is the way he lifts up those around him.
“He’s a leader...He doesn’t absorb his talent, he radiates his talent because he tries to make everybody better. If you watch him when someone hits a three and it’s not him, he’s hyped. The kids see that, they know that’s a quality you can’t coach,” said Durant. “You can’t teach that and he has all those tangibles, both the intangibles and tangibles.”