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Carter's game bigger than his frame

Jan. 31, 2013 @ 11:43 PM

HUNTINGTON — Ironton’s Zac Carter skied above the post players for a rebound outside of the foul line with 3:57 to go in the second quarter against Huntington High on Tuesday night.

At the 3:54 mark, Carter was laying the ball in the hoop after driving coast-to-coast through the Highlander defense.

In three seconds, he had gone nearly 70 feet — from the opposing foul line to his basket — on the dribble.

The play epitomized Carter's skill-set in an instant — amazing leaping ability, lightning-quick handles from end-to-end and an ability to maintain control and finish at the rim.

Sounds pretty good, huh?

So if it also was said that Carter was averaging nearly 30 points a night while adding five rebounds, five assists and three steals, it would be assumed the kid was getting so many college offers that he couldn’t keep track.

For Carter, it’s currently not the case.

That’s because there’s one element Carter is lacking and it’s certainly nothing in his control — size.

Carter, an All-Ohio selection in 2011-12 and one of Ohio’s top returning players, is only 5-foot-9, 150 pounds.

And because of that size, he doesn’t have a single Division I offer on the table as of Tuesday night.

While he’s waiting, he’s dominating.

“Every single day I wake up and I don’t have any big schools call me, I work harder that day,” Carter said.

Currently, the opposition wishes those Division I schools would start calling because Carter has been putting up astronomical numbers as of late.

In his last seven games, Carter is averaging 29.6 points, including games of 38, 40 and 44 during that stretch.

Against Huntington High on Tuesday night, the Highlanders looked to totally take him out of the game by playing a box-and-1 defense on him.

Still, Carter scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half against that defense before the Highlanders essentially had a pair of players shading him for the rest of the night.

The defense came because Huntington High coach Ron Hess knew exactly what Carter could do if left alone. After all, he had 31 points against the Highlanders in a 72-70 win last year.

“He’s definitely the best player around this area, there’s no doubt about it,” Hess said of Carter. “The MSAC is the toughest conference in West Virginia basketball and he’s by far the best guard of anybody.

“He’s very hard to guard because there’s not a deficit in his game. He can shoot from outside, he can take you off the dribble, he can get to the paint and pass the ball. He’s just a complete, all-around guard.”

While opposing coaches regularly heap praise on Carter, Ironton coach Mark LaFon said what elevates him above others is what he does on days when there are no games to be played.

That, in LaFon’s eyes, is what separates a good guard from a great guard like Carter.

“This is a kid that will call me on Sunday and ask if I’m in Ironton so I can open the gym for him to work out alone,” LaFon said. “When he comes in, he doesn’t come in and shoot. He works out by himself. He gets cones, he does drills and he loves it. He works his guts out.

“He runs in practice like he’s trying to earn himself a spot. He’ll sprint like he’s trying to earn his first starting position.”

LaFon agreed later that it’s a Division I scholarship that Carter’s envisioning every time he takes part in one of those workouts.

Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford has seen his fair share of Division I athletes, with 15 going through his program in its first three years around town.

Fulford said that Carter’s ability to play at the Division-I level is a no-brainer and he hopes that Division I schools — Marshall included — take notice of Carter’s talent.

In fact, a couple of years ago, Fulford had a player named Charlie Lee, who like Carter, was 5-9, 150 pounds.

Lee signed with Cleveland State and now leads the Horizon League in assists per game while also ranking in the top 20 in scoring.

Fulford added that if anyone needs any indication of how Carter’s abilities equate to the Division I level, they should just look at Carter’s performance against current N.C. State guard Rodney Purvis in last year’s Tri-State Hoops Classic.

Carter went toe-to-toe with Purvis as Ironton led Upper Room Christian for nearly the entire game before falling 95-94 in the 2012 Tri-State Hoops Classic.

Purvis ended the evening with 32 points while Carter had 29 points and eight assists for Ironton.

After that game, Fulford added this about Carter when talking about the contest.

“I told them that I thought Carter was just as good of a guard and he was,” Fulford said. “He's a great player and people have got to see that.”

LaFon agreed when asked to recall the game.

“He was the best player on the court for three quarters,” LaFon said. “And there’s no doubt, he looked as good as (Purvis) did during the game.”

Tri-State fans and coaches have a chance to see Carter against prime competition once again on Friday as he returns to the Tri-State Hoops Classic.

Ironton will take on Flora MacDonald (N.C.) at 7 p.m. on Friday at Spring Valley High School.

Carter, the team-first point guard as described by LaFon, will be looking to lead his team to victory as he’s done for the last three years for Ironton.

However, down deep there will also be an intrinsic, much more personal motive.

One play at a time, Carter will be looking to prove that his game is bigger than his frame.