Feb. 28, 2008
By Brian W. Ferrie `98
Tasheed Carr wanted to come home and Hawks fans couldn't be happier that he did. After four years in distant outposts, the Philadelphia native decided to finish his college hoops career in the City of Brotherly Love.
Carr had played at University City High School through his junior year, when he was an All-Public League player, before transferring to Mt. Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina. He played two more high school seasons at Mt. Zion, averaging 15.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game.
That production caught the eyes of colleges nationwide, and Scout.com rated him the #22 point guard in the class of 2004. Among his many scholarship offers, Carr's decision came down to Iowa State and Saint Joseph's.
"I always liked St. Joe's growing up," he recalled. "I remember watching Rashid Bey and Jameer [Nelson]. It was definitely my favorite school in the [Philadelphia] area."
Carr ended up picking the Cyclones because he wanted to see a different part of the country. At first, the Mt. Zion class valedictorian thrived in the basketball environment in Ames, Iowa. He averaged 5.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game as Iowa State's sixth man his freshman year and was named to the Big 12 All-Bench Team. But his development stalled as a sophomore, when Carr played in only 22 games and averaged just 5.0 points. He realized that he missed Philly and looked into the possibility of transferring home. Fortunately, St. Joe's had a scholarship opening and Carr officially came to Hawk Hill in May 2006.
"When I chose Iowa State, it was because I wanted to get away," he said with a laugh. "I transferred to St. Joe's because I wanted to come home. There were a few other situations [that contributed to the decision] but in the end it came down to wanting to be close to my family and friends - the people who support me."
As a Division I transfer, Carr was not allowed to play for the Hawks during the 2006-07 season but was allowed to practice with his new teammates and sit on the bench for games.
"The year off was tough but good for me at the same time," he related. "It was a learning experience and gave me a different perspective."
That perspective allowed Carr to focus on the areas in which he could help the team upon becoming eligible to play.
"I think last year's team lacked some leadership," he said. "Somebody who would lead by example and demand toughness."
His teammates clearly felt Carr could be that guy, electing him as a co-captain for this season despite the fact he hadn't yet played a game for the Hawks. He immediately proved them correct, starting the first 13 games at point guard and logging a team-leading 35.2 minutes per game before spraining his right ankle in practice on Jan. 14.
Prior to that injury, the 6-4 junior was leading the Atlantic 10 with 6.7 assists per game, an average that also ranked seventh in the country. In addition, Carr had put up 11.8 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game and 1.6 steals per game, while shooting 44.9 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from three-point range. During that stretch, the Hawks went 9-4.
There was definitely some concern about how St. Joe's would perform without its injured floor general. But in the next four games, the team banded together to compile three wins - at Penn and Temple and home against Massachusetts. With a 5-1 Atlantic 10 record (13-5 overall) heading into the game against Fordham on February 2, the Hawks have positioned themselves well for a run at the regular season conference championship.
"The other guys have done a great job while I've been hurt," Carr said. "Garrett [Williamson] stepped up with his handling and distributing. The whole team is responding - it's not easy to play without your starting point guard. But there's enough talent here that we should be able to pick up the slack if any of us gets hurt."
Asked if he had any individual goals for the remainder of the season, Carr said he would like to stay among the national leaders in assists.
"But really my goals are oriented to the team," he added. "I just want to win every game we play. To strive for excellence and make it to the NCAA Tournament."
There are two ways to do that - by winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Atlantic City from March 12-15 or by receiving an at-large bid from the NCAA Selection Committee. With the Atlantic 10 stronger than it has been since the 2003-04 season, attempting to win the conference tournament will be a daunting task.
"The Atlantic 10 is very tough," commented Carr. "The conference has been down for a couple years but now there are five or six teams who are really good and it's a dogfight every night."
At the same time, that conference strength could allow a few additional Atlantic 10 teams to make the Big Dance through the at-large process. Carr addressed the possibility of getting a bid if the team does not come out on top in Atlantic City.
"Realistically, with our RPI and strength of schedule, we have a chance. We had a lot of close games and played three or four non-conference teams that will be in the NCAA [Tournament]. We just need to keep winning."
That effort will be helped by the quality of coaching on the sidelines in addition to the ability of his teammates on the floor.
"I think Coach [Phil] Martelli is a genius," Carr said. "He demands a lot but lets you express yourself within the team concept. He really knows the game and I'm lucky to play for him."
After a year-and-a-half on Hawk Hill, Carr has also formed a strong opinion about the campus atmosphere.
"People treat you well here and they really care about basketball. It's different from what I was used to at Iowa State, where there would be 15,000 people in the arena. But I like being part of a smaller community that's more interactive with professors and other students. It's been a great experience."
Carr doesn't expect his basketball career to end with graduation, either.
"I definitely think about playing at the next level," he concluded. "It's been a dream my whole life to make it to the NBA. I think if I work hard and listen to what Coach Martelli and Coach [Doug] Overton tell me, I'm very capable of reaching that goal."