Carter Snaps West Virginia’s 34-Year Old Career Steals Mark
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – This was as much about the game within the game as West Virginia beat the New Jersey Institute of Technology here Thursday.
The outcome was decided before the half, the Mountaineers amassing a 15-point lead at 45-30 with 90 seconds left before the break in cruising to a 102-69 victory. The only question became what the contest will truly be remembered for in the long term, which was when Jevon Carter would set the career school record for steals with 252.
As it happened, the transaction transpired at with 56 seconds left before the break, when Carter picked the pocket of guard Zach Cooks for his third steal of the game. Carter entered two behind fellow guard Greg Jones, who tallied 251 steals in a storied career that spanned from 1980-83 and included 1,797 points over 122 games. Carter won’t come close to Jones’ point production – the senior has 1,270 with 23 regular season games left – but beat Jones, a WVU Hall of Famer, to the steals record in seven fewer games, having now played in 115 contests.
“He’s fun to watch,” said WVU forward Teddy Allen, whose new career-best with 16 points was overshadowed by Carter’s game-high 25 to go with six assists and five steals to bring his total to 254. “Even as his teammate, seeing him in practice every day, he works at it. Seeing him be successful and reach his goals is cool. When your got your leader out there defending as hard as he defends, how could you not?”
Setting the record was a significant moment, but one lost in the momentum of the game, which obviously carried on as Carter made among the more memorable thefts of his career, if only because of the statistical meaning of it. The half went on, and the teams headed to the locker room without much fan fare. It wasn’t until just before the second half that Carter was recognized, his total of 252 announced as the school record over the public address system. But the guard, locked in on head coach Bob Huggins’ instructions, never reacted to the standing ovation from the 8,882 in attendance.
“I heard it a little bit, but I was trying to pay attention to what Huggs was saying because he was trying to tell us something,” said Carter, the defending National Defensive Player of the Year. “I couldn’t really hear because everybody started cheering. I just heard them say it. I had to ask Huggs what he was saying.
“It don’t mean much now,” he added. “I’m sure it’ll mean a lot when I’m done. Right now I am focused on game by game and moving on to the next.”
The record is a testament to Carter’s will, determination and drive to succeed, as well as his desire to play defense. Huggins remarked how much he liked Carter’s hustle and exertion on the defensive end even when he first scouted him as a prep player at Proviso East High in Maywood, Ill., just outside of Chicago. In an era where defense is an after thought at most levels, including all along the AAU circuit and through much of the high school ranks, Carter was a rarity, a solid talent who refused to rest on the defensive side, instead understanding when and how to rest within the game.
The irony is that Carter grew up idolizing Derrick Rose, a fellow Chicago native who played eight seasons for the hometown Bulls. The 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year and the 2011 league MVP, Rose was known more for his offense than defense, as he’s averaged almost 20 points per game. But that’s not what drew Carter to Rose.
“His aggressiveness, the way he attacked,” said Carter, a three-time member of the All-Big 12 defensive team. “His mentality and the way he believes he can do anything. It’s really all mental. I don’t feel like defense is ability. It’s more mental than ability. If you want to, you can.”
That’s how Carter modeled his play, and it earned Huggins’ admiration for him as a player, and segued into a scholarship and being the leading example of what Press Virginia has become in four seasons. Carter and backcourt mate Dax Miles are the first four-year graduates, if you will, of the new style and pacing of West Virginia’s playing style. They entered as true freshmen in 2015, when Huggins decided to go to the pressure, and will leave the lasting legacy of establishing the firmest of foundations upon which to build.
“Never. No way,” Allen said when asked if he’s seen a better on-ball defender. “It’s funny, because I asked him how he defended like that. He said that’s how he has always been. He’s a talented defender. He’s skilled like that on the defensive end. I can take away the technique, but that boy is different on the defensive end.”