Friday, November 25, 2011

A feature on Raphael Carter

Raphael Carter has plans. Finish the season and hopefully lead Diablo Valley College to the state championship, then head to Reno to play ball and earn a degree, followed by play-for-pay and eventually employment as a designer of automobiles.

But what he has left out, if he so chooses, is working as a sports or basketball commentator as Carter has the gift of expressing his thoughts in a learned, accomplished and well-spoken manner. Think Len Elmore or simply the antithesis of Dickie V, and this is someone who just turned 19!

The road to basketball-ville began in Ohio for the 6-foot-9 Carter.

"I was dribbling a basketball while in diapers (talk about a real diaper dandy)," Carter explained. "As a kid, we were always watching basketball." He's a Laker fan, particularly of Kobe Bryant but hopefully the Golden State Warrior/Wolf Pack aficionados in and around Reno will overlook this.

But what about other sports?

"I played a little soccer and I was offered a baseball scholarship to a private high school after eighth grade," Carter said.

Hoops won out.

What's funny in retrospect is why Carter isn't out on a football field. "My mom wouldn't let me play football. She was worried about her baby getting hurt."

That's probably not what other parents would have envisioned happening.

Nevada, specifically former Wolf Pack Coach Dennis Gates, first noticed Carter in a Florida nationals tournament. "He liked that I grabbed rebounds and defended the rim well."

But his senior year saw Carter miss a qualifying test score requirement by two points so it was a matter of turning to the junior college ranks.

Plus, there was another bump in the road as Carter explained: "I didn't finish out my senior year. I only played in six games because I got kicked off the team for being at the wrong place at the wrong time on New Year's Eve. But i still got a Top 24 McDonald's All-American award and that's what kept my hopes alive after I didn't pass the NCAA Clearinghouse."

Nevada remained steadfast and told Carter about Diablo Valley College and Coach Steve Coccimiglio, as the latter has enjoyed two of his previous frontcourters in Mo Charlo and Demarshay Johnson contributing well up Reno way.

That was fine with Carter as his grandmother lived in California (Santa Monica) and he had some distant cousins in Oakland. The distance from home and especially being in new surroundings were not new to Carter. "We moved around a lot when I was growing up."

In 2010-11, the Vikings went 26-5, 13-1 and won the Big 8 Conference -- "we had a great run and a great season" per Carter. Individually, he was named as an Honorable Mention to the All-State team as well as being an All-League selection. Diablo Valley advanced to the Final Four in the state tournament before falling.

As for his recent letter-of-intent with Nevada, there was a degree of competition as California and Oregon State entered the picture, showing interest in Carter.

Along with his grandmother, Carter had visited Nevada unofficially when he was a high school senior and then he did a solo sojourn later on an official trip.

But the familiar and the loyal won out.

So why the Wolf Pack?

Unlike with the others, there will be an option for Carter to redshirt in his initial season in Reno but he understands that will depend on the needs of the team.

Plus, "I just fell in love with the school -- it's not too big and not too small -- and the facilities are some of the best in the WAC," Carter offered. The loss of Coach Gates (who is now at Florida State) "made my decision a little tougher but I have a good relationship with Coach [David] Carter."

So it became a matter of Carters sticking together.

He wanted to major in automobile engineering design so as to eventually become a car designer but Carter found out that Nevada doesn't offer that specific program. However, various engineering design programs are available and that was good enough.

Regarding basketball influences Carter named a pair from back home -- Sam Smith and Jermaine Guice. Smith graduated from Dayton and played overseas but helped "me a whole lot with both my game and getting on [AAU] teams." Greer also played overseas and "has been a huge part of my basketball life."

An interesting aspect to Carter's development, this of the physical manner, is that he weighed 190 pounds in high school. His self description: "I was allergic to the weight room. As soon I walked in, I would sneeze."

Now he checks in at 210, with plans to move the needle higher.

"The weight room at Nevada is out of control. I'm going to look like Superman before I'm done, " Carter proclaimed.

Besides the team goals for this season, Carter said, "I'm still blocking shots and rebounding." But he plans on displaying more aggressiveness to the rim, a better jump shot -- just having more offensive skills."

Once the school year concludes at Diablo Valley, Carter will head home to Ohio for a short period before moving to Reno and as he puts it, "getting to work."

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