Senior guard Caleb Carter (above) had 20 points and 15 rebounds in Carroll's Friday-night win. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Francis Bowe had plenty to wonder about his current squad. The Archbishop Carroll head coach had seen his program ripped apart after last year’s 17-win season, both by graduation and transfer, as several would-be key returning players left back in the fall due to COVID uncertainty.
With only one starter back and knowing that several freshmen were going to have to play big minutes right away, Bowe needed someone from last year’s bench to step up into a starring role.
Enter Caleb Carter.
“We played in the Delaware 87ers Fall League, and we noticed as a staff he does all these little things,” Bowe said. “And thank God [he does].”
Carter was certainly all over the court Friday night, when Carroll took down O’Hara 70-43 in a Philadelphia Catholic League contest. The 6-foot-3 combo guard put up the performance of his varsity career thus far, scoring 20 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.
He got rolling early, getting to the basket for multiple layups during an 11-0 first-quarter run that gave Carroll a double-digit advantage. Neither he nor his team looked back; Carter had 14 by halftime, when Carroll had already opened up a 21-point lead, and scored at least one bucket in every quarter.
“My coaches always told me that when I had the ball, I should be looking to get downhill, either to get a bucket or make a play, get an assist,” he said. “Every time I touch the ball should be a good outcome.”
Carter was an efficient 9-of-13 from the floor and was all over the glass, getting the ball ahead in transition to his younger teammates and then often getting it back when the offense broke down. He hit his only 3-point attempt, and also came up with three steals and a pair of assists.
“He hasn’t been scoring 15 or 20 but when he does, it’s an added bonus,” Bowe said. “He rebounds and he’s probably our best defender. He was out [for] the Devon Prep game and they got everything they wanted because we didn’t have him.”
Carter’s classmate, Carroll big man Anquan Hill, added 17 points for the Patriots (2-3), who snapped a three-game losing streak, while promising freshman Moses Hipps added a dozen.
A West Philly native, Carter came to Carroll as a freshman to play for head coach Paul Romanczuk, picking Carroll over Roman Catholic for its suburban setting. He was coming off a sophomore year on the JV team when Bowe took over before last season and was a well-used reserve as a junior, though he was sixth on the team in scoring and never hit double figures.
Now he finds himself one of three starting seniors on a team that otherwise didn’t have a player with varsity experience prior to this year; Tyler Seward, a senior guard, joined the program from The Haverford School this offseason. Hipps is one of two freshmen in the starting lineup, along with Chase Coleman.
“You’ve just got to lead and let all the younger guys know where they’re at, know that they need to have a sense of urgency at all times,” Carter said. “It’s no joke here, you’ve got to bring it every night.
“When they’re younger, it’s just a lot of emotions, you’ve got to just tell them to keep it cool. They’re not going to hit every shot, you might not get the ball on every possession, but just know that the next play, it’s coming back to you, and you’ve got another chance at it.”
In a normal year, a starting guard for a quality Catholic League program who’s capable of the outing Carter put together Friday night is a clear college prospect, with several of the area’s small-college programs on them at minimum. Add in Carter’s more-than-solid grades and extracurricular interests — he’s in a journalism class and has covered girls’ basketball games for the school newspaper — and it’s a no-brainer.
But this is no normal year. Carter is hoping to play college basketball somewhere next year, but that’ll take an interested school first. And he’s far from the only one.
The NCAA’s blanket waiver of giving all 2020-21 basketball players an extra year of eligibility was the right call, but combined with the blanket transfer waiver it resulted in many college programs unsure of what their rosters will look like this fall.
That’s a major problem for this year’s senior class, who’ve already struggled to get in front of college coaches after seeing their entire final summer of travel basketball all but cancelled and now have to resort to sending game film and highlight tape to college coaches in hopes of gaining attention.
Just like coaches around the state (and around the country) are doing with their college-level seniors, Bowe is doing what he can to help promote his players.
“I can send out the Hudl film...as a staff we send it out to all the local colleges, here’s the link, here’s the link, please take a look, this kids’ a senior,” Bowe said. “We’re five games in, at the 10-game mark we’re going to start sending out highlights. You’ve got to do a ton of work, but it’s worth it for these kids, they deserve it. But you have to do a lot.”
Though mid-February in a normal year would see the onset of the postseason, the Catholic League’s still got a month to play until the PIAA state playoffs (March 16). Bowe said the current plan is for the PCL to play its championship game March 14, though that’s only going to happen if the league gets through its schedule without too many COVID pauses.
O’Hara, playing its first game of the year, was coming off a pause; West Catholic and Archbishop Ryan have also had their seasons put on hold due to the pandemic, but are hoping to get in all their games ahead of the deadline.
(The Lions (0-1) were also without head coach Ryan Nemetz, serving a one-game suspension due to an ejection a year ago. Assistant coach Pat Flanagan filled in on the sideline.)
No matter what, all teams that don’t qualify for the postseason are able to play each other in non-league competition during the state playoffs (March 16-26). As Carroll and O'Hara are both 4A schools, this win was a nice boost for the Patriots' potential postseason hopes, but (again, unlike most years) the players aren't worried about playing bonus basketball. Regular basketball is good enough.
“It’s late, but we’re getting a chance,” Carter said. “We play every game like it’s our last, put our all on the line, try to get wins every night, either way, COVID or not.”
Cardinal O’Hara: 9 | 8 | 10 | 16 || 43
Archbishop Carroll: 19 | 19 | 15 | 17 || 70
Cardinal O’Hara: 15-52 FG (3-20 3PT), 10-14 FT
Archbishop Carroll: 30-53 FG (4-16 3PT), 6-10 FT
Cardinal O’Hara: Harris 12, Trickey 11, Irving 9, Coulanges 4, Johnson 3, McGuinn 2, Z Harris 2
Archbishop Carroll: Carter 20, Hill 17, Hipps 12, Simpson Jr. 8, Seward 7, Coleman 2, Lamey 2, Cannon 2