February 26, 2009
by Pete Spiewak '10
Tasheed Carr knows a thing or two about beating the odds.
A product of West Philadelphia, Carr has overcome a lot to be able to don the Crimson and Gray. Growing up in a neighborhood where surviving is an accomplishment in itself makes conference foes like Xavier and Temple seem not so tough.
"If I would have asked myself when I was in 10th grade `would I have this much success in college and be four classes away from obtaining my degree?' I probably would have said `no,'" said Carr, who developed his game on the courts at Myers Park and Sherwood Park as a youngster. "Where I'm from there aren't many outlets. I'm extremely proud of myself and my family's extremely proud of what I've done."
With Pat Calathes and Rob Ferguson no longer on the team, head coach Phil Martelli needed other players besides Ahmad Nivins to step up this season and help fill the scoring void. Carr was one of the players that have stepped up.
His average has increased from 10.8 points per game to 13 points per game this season. With limited proven offensive weapons on this year's squad, Carr has been forced to leave his role as a distributor and help Nivins shoulder the load offensively.
"I've been scoring a little more this year, and I think that's a necessity for this team," he said. "Garrett's stepped up as a second point guard, [so when we're both in the game] I move to the two a lot. Last year I was exclusively at the one; I never really played on the wing. I think this year, I'm getting the opportunity to play off the ball and do more things, so my assists are down, and my scoring is up. As far as what I have to do to help the team, I think I have to score more."
In order to help improve the Hawks' offense, Carr put in countless hours last summer working on his jump shot, and his statistics reflect the hard work he has put in. The fifth-year senior is shooting over 40% from the three-point line, up from 34% a year ago.
"I just wanted to pick my [shooting] up," he said. "I work on every part of my game, especially my jump shot -- I think that is a very important game, especially in college."
His improved stroke from downtown has helped the physical point guard to become a better all-around scorer.
"Now that I'm making shots, I'm not getting easy shots from the perimeter, so guys are coming out on me," he said. "So I really have to try to use my body to get to the paint, and try to get to the rim and the free throw line."
Carr loves to run with the ball and use his body to get in the paint, but with the lack of depth on this team, the Hawks are forced to slow the ball down and play in a half-court style. The transition hasn't been easy.
"I think I prefer, and a lot of my teammates prefer, to push the ball and keep people on their heels, but we have to pick our spots because we are a team that doesn't have depth," Carr explained. "It's been kind of hard."
But in order for Saint Joseph's to make a run at the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship, Carr and the rest of the Hawks will have to turn things around quickly after losing four games in a row, which dropped their conference record to 7-5.
Carr believes the Hawks are just a few costly mistakes away from being at the top of the conference.
"I think there have been a few small mistakes," Carr said. "Whether they are defensively, or a few things on offense or a costly turnover here and there -- there are a few small things that aren't allowing us to win games."
When Carr became homesick as a student-athlete at Iowa State, he started looking for a school that was close to his home in Philadelphia. It didn't take very long for him to realize that Hawk Hill was the place that he wanted to be.
"I wanted to come back home and play in front of my family," he said. "I had a great relationship with Coach Martelli, and I knew he always wanted me. He welcomed me with open arms. I thought it would be a great opportunity to come back and play for a great program, a great coach, be with my family and play in the city of Philadelphia."
The 6'4" guard received a warm welcome when he arrived.
"From day one, everybody welcomed me and embraced me," Carr said. "It was a great welcoming from my teammates, my coaches and the people around the Saint Joseph's community."
It didn't take long for Carr to step up and become a leader. When he joined the team, he was surrounded by talented players like Calathes, Ferguson and Nivins, but the Hawks were without a veteran point guard and a vocal leader. Carr filled both of those roles as a junior as the Hawks clinched a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
"I felt that I could make a difference," the point guard said. "We had some great players, and I just wanted to come in and help any way I can, and be a part of a winning team."
For Carr, being a leader comes easily.
"It's something that comes naturally to me," said the Philadelphia native. "I enjoy stepping up for my guys. I came in and from day one, I've been myself, nothing more, nothing less, and I think the guys have embraced that and followed that."
Carr's character was shaped by growing up in a rough neighborhood in West Philadelphia. He believes that his childhood has helped him not only become a tough, physical player, but a tough person in general.
"It's a Philadelphia thing," he said. "It has nothing to do with basketball. Growing up where I'm from and surviving has made me tougher. I think when you get on the court, you follow that same path and same attitude that you have to maintain off the court when you're not playing basketball, and I think that translates into being a tough person all around."
Carr knows that he is one of the lucky ones, and he is grateful to be where he is today.
"All of my friends are either dead or in jail right now," Carr said. "It's a blessing from God to be in the position that I'm in, being a college student about to obtain a degree."
Some might judge Tasheed Carr by how far the Hawks go this season. But to Carr and his family, he is already a success. He's come pretty far.
After all, The Palestra is a long way from the courts at Myers and Sherwood.