American's Carr got out of the garage and turned the corner

Photos: RON CORTES / Staff photographer
Photos: RON CORTES / Staff photographer
Posted: March 19, 2009

GARRISON CARR had scored just 233 points in his first two seasons at American University. As a junior, he made 135 threes and scored 606 points. The Eagles made their first NCAA Division I Tournament appearance. He scored 26 in the final game of the season, a game American was very much in until Tennessee pulled away in the final few minutes.

This season, Carr has made 108 threes and scored 551 points. American plays Villanova tonight in a first-round NCAA game at the Wachovia Center.

So Carr has made 10 more threes in the last two seasons than he scored points in his first two seasons. So, what changed?

"A lot of the players that were in front of me graduated," Carr said yesterday. "But I came in with a different mentality. Instead of just trying to be an offensive player on the team, I focused on my defense."

The 5-11 Carr is a scoring guard in a point guard's body. His problem was that the Eagles already had a point guard. And Derrick Mercer was in the same class as Carr.

Putting a 5-7 point guard with a 5-11 shooting guard might not have worked many places. But it has worked well enough for two consecutive Patriot League championships.

"[Carr] was splitting time between being a backup point guard and also playing some minutes as an off guard," American coach Jeff Jones said. "He and I met at the conclusion of his sophomore year and basically agreed that a couple of things needed to happen."

Player and coach needed to communicate better. So they often hung out for lunch between summer classes, talking a little hoops and a little life.

"We also agreed that he and Derrick Mercer needed to play together," Jones said. "Most times, whether it be in practice or pick-up games, those guys played against one another."

Mercer was the point guard. So it was a chance to get the two best guards on the floor. And there was the matter of defense.

"I tried to get on the floor with my offense and defense was secondary," Carr said. "It took me 2 years to find out that that wasn't going to work."

Carr remembers the feeling in Birmingham, Ala., last March when the Eagles were in position for just the fifth 15-2 NCAA upset.

"I remember me and everyone on the team had a lot of confidence at that time because we were right there with them through 35 minutes of the game," he said. "Everyone was telling us we were going to get blown out."

The Alabama fans adopted American. Alas, Tennessee controlled those final 5 minutes.

American will not get such a friendly audience tonight. Visiting underdogs are visitors before they are underdogs.

You can, however, be sure of a few things. Garrison Carr, the player who once searched for minutes, will come out firing, will continue firing until they tell him to stop and will play defense. *

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