Carter Turns Up Defense While Offense Slumps
It happens to every athlete, doesn’t matter how great.
Sometime in their career, usually more than once, they go off their game.
Call it a slump.
If it’s a football quarterback, passes go flying out of control.
If it’s a baseball player, pitchers that looked like watermelons coming to the plate a week earlier look like 100-mile-an-hour watermelon seeds coming plateward.
Timing goes off. Confidence slips.
I once watched Pete Rose hit safely in 44 consecutive games. I also watched him make an out 27 consecutive times.
Rose understood it. When people would come and heap praise upon him for his having more hits than anyone, he would remind them that he also had made more outs than anyone in baseball history.
It’s no different in basketball, as West Virginia’s Jevon Carter is learning.
There is a fine line in whether a basketball goes in or out. Touch is almost an indescribable asset, figuring out why a ball that hangs on the rim for one guy goes in and for another goes out.
Little things happen. Maybe you don’t feel good. Maybe a defender is forcing you out of your comfort zone.
Maybe good shots just turn out bad for a while and your confidence slips.
Carter has been the face of this West Virginia team for two years. He puts so much of himself into it that it is hard to watch when things go bad.
This season things had been going perfectly. Oh, early in the year, coach Bob Huggins had to encourage him to shoot the ball because he had been seemingly trying to involve others in the offense too much.
With this team, his offense was as important as his defense and his defense was the best there is in America.
As the season wore on, Huggins got through to him and he was playing flawlessly …. until this road trip to Oklahoma State.
There he went 1-for-10 from the field, had a career-high eight turnovers and seemed to be a different player.
Huggins noted that he had hurt his wrist in a spill, but had worked through it this weekend and was fine for Monday’s Kansas State game, only he came out terribly tentative in the first half, unsure of himself.
It’s no different than a hitter who gets into a slump, sports being as mental as they are.
You go to bat one day and get robbed of a hit in the hole by a shortstop and hit a line drive at the third baseman.
Next day you hit two balls to the wall and the next day it’s two “at ‘em” line drives.
Now you’re thinking you’re in a slump when you are hitting the ball just fine.
Huggins sees the same thing in his sport.
“You see a guy who comes out and misses a couple of 3s, then a couple of jump shots and he gets shaken up,” Huggins has said. “If he had not shot those 3s and instead gotten a couple of layups early before missing the jump shots, he would be 2-for-4 instead of 0-for-4 and not thinking he was having a bad day.”
To Carter’s credit, he recovered in the second half against Kansas State … not in his shooting, but that’s the sign of a real team player.
True, he went 1-for-7 and scored three points, but he also had 10 assists — eight of them after halftime — and grabbed eight rebounds while pitching a shutout at Kamau Stokes, whom he was guarding, while twice tying him up while he drove toward the basket, almost impossible defensive plays that you never see.
This, of course, is key, for it is the equivalent of the baseball player who doesn’t let his slump hurt his defense or the football quarterback who turns up his leadership even though his passing is off.
In basketball, there is so much more than just scoring the ball and the great ones understand that and play through their slumps until it comes back together.
And how does that happen?
Sometimes it takes extra work. In Carter’s case, as much he works, it might take getting away from it for a day, not thinking about it. Then go out and do what comes naturally, for in the end, it will come back.