The glimpses gave Dave Williams hope.
While other players, who are now gone, played bigger roles for Desert Vista during its run to the boys Division I state basketball semifinals last season, Greg Carter was always dependable.
“We had a lot of good players last year, Division I players, but there were still times where he was the best player on the court,” Williams said. “Now he is really growing into a big-time player.”
Anyone who saw the Thunder senior play in the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge can agree and put to rest the hangover of losing quality players to Westwind Prep, a national travel team.
The 5-foot-10 point guard helped Desert Vista overcome an 11-point deficit in Game 1 by pouring in 30 in a 75-66 win over Lexington (S.C.) and then followed it up with 28 points, including nine straight in overtime, to beat Red Mountain 71-66.
The go-to guy position is something Carter is growing more comfortable with as the season gets deeper into his senior year.
It is not a role he has to take on every game, not with quality players like Kyle Pitman, Deonte Harrington and Avery Brunson along side him, but he has no problem doing so when called upon.
“Everyone wants the ball in their hands at the end,” he said. “At least the good players do. I’m no different. If I can take the winning shot or find an open teammate to win it then we have a chance. All you want at the end is a chance.”
Carter, who has heard from colleges like Cal State Northridge and Chandler-Gilbert, is quick, uses both hands, has a nice touch on floaters in the lane, has a good feel for spacing on the floor to get his teammates the ball and found his stroke from the outside.
“I’m playing pretty good,” he said. “The seniors knew it was our time and we talked about it after (four college level players) left. Someone had to pick it up and it can be any one of us.”
More often than not these days, it is Carter as he makes a stronger plea for the ball in his hands. When he took over the Red Mountain game, it was clear his teammates were looking for him to get the job done.
And the opposition knew it, too.
“He breaks down a defense and gets into the lane,” Red Mountain coach Greg Sessions said. “Once he gets there he can finish or pass off. He can be difficult to stop.”
Carter, who is averaging 13.9 points, 5.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds, has steadily improved while playing summer ball and having his dad, Greg, on the Thunder’s coaching staff only helps.
At least most of the time.
“It’s good and bad,” the younger Carter said. “He knows me better than anyone, but he also expects more from me.”
Carter, who averaged 4.2 points and 3.3 assists as a junior, said this team isn’t far off from getting to the level of success it had last year.
“We are doing it differently and with different players, but we played a couple of (nationally) ranked teams in Las Vegas and had a chance at the end,” he said. “It gave us some confidence that we can get it done.”
And part of that confidence coincides with the maturation of Carter.
“As Greg Carter goes, we go,” Williams said. “He is our spark plug.”
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