Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | 2:15 a.m.
More UNLV Recruiting News
When/Where To See Carter Play This Weekend
- • Friday - 11:45 a.m., Bishop Gorman Court 3 vs. Branch West Elite (Calif.)
- • Friday - 8:30 p.m., Bishop Gorman Court 1 vs. Wisconsin Swing
- • Saturday - 9:45 p.m., Bishop Gorman Court 2 vs. Team Jones Oregon
On the basketball court, Ben Carter is his father's son.
Five years ago, Mike Carter made sure that would be the case today.
That's when he formed the AAU program that Ben is now a cornerstone of — the Las Vegas Lakers.
The inspiration to start a travel team from scratch came after seeing what had become common pitfalls of the system, such as loosely coached teams, shoe companies carrying too much influence, selfish play, coaches with ulterior motives and, well, a lack of a true teaching environment.
"I was a little upset with what was going on in AAU ball," said the elder Carter, who has also coached girls' basketball at Bishop Gorman for the last 12 years. "We've always had a family-oriented team where everyone pitches in. We don't have a sponsor.
"With my team, we run a lot of plays, we use a lot of X's and O's, because I'm an X's and O's guy. I'm teaching them to play basketball the right way and to play for each other."
For the most part, the original group, which included The Meadows' Garrett Gosse and Carter's Gorman teammate Gio Guzman, has remained together for what now is its fifth summer of traveling and competing.
From a year-round model of stability, including his role as a do-it-all wing for Gorman and coach Grant Rice in the winter, the 6-foot-7 Carter blossomed into a consumate team player that more than just a few college coaches are now clamoring to get. Many of them will be in town for a closer look this weekend, as the Lakers will take part in the Fab 48 — one of several prominent AAU tournaments held annually during a crazy late-July weekend in Las Vegas.
A major turning point that led Carter to this point in his young career came just over a year ago, when his dad worked some connections to land a group of his players, both present and past, a trip over to China. Over three stops, they played nine games against national teams from China, Australia and other foreign countries.
Ben, who at that point had hardly played even a minute of varsity high school basketball, was matched up against elite players from around the world who were as many as four years older than him.
Mike Carter, having played professionally overseas for 17 years, knew the potential gains for his son.
"They all matured," he recalled. "Ben got better, and I think it helped him in high school this year tremendously. It was nothing compared to what he was playing against over there."
And as a junior this past season, Ben wound up taking on a prominent role for the Gaels, averaging 10.9 points for a team that fell two wins shy of a third consecutive state championship. He showed he could score in a variety of ways, was a strong rebounder, a reliable ballhandler and showed plenty of savvy while working within the framework of Gorman's offense.
Soon, college coaches who were coming by to check out teammates Shabazz Muhammad and Rosco Allen were paying closer attention to Carter, who at this point in the summer is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 121 overall prospect in the 2012 crop.
Scholarship offers now seem to be coming in by the day. On Monday, San Diego State became the latest to extend one to Carter, joining the likes of UNLV, Nevada-Reno, Arizona State, New Mexico, Portland and Oregon, USC, BYU and Boston College.
Right now, Carter considers his recruitment to still be wide open.
"I'm still trying to pick up some more offers, see what I can get before the summer's over, then play it by ear from there," he said. "I'm not so much waiting for a (particular) offer."
As for where he stands with UNLV, a relationship was already in place with coach Dave Rice even before he was hired in early April.
Two years ago, following a team camp at BYU, Carter was tracked down in the parking lot on his way out of the building and offered a scholarship by Rice, who at the time was the Cougars' associate head coach. Not long after Rice landed in Vegas, Mike and Ben went on campus for an unofficial visit, and UNLV's interest only seemed to grow from there.
Carter's being recruited more aggressively by the Rebels now than he was by the previous staff, and the uptempo system Rice plans to implement at UNLV, which features multiple big men on the floor at once, likely fits him better, too.
"Coach Rice has been at almost all of our games, and if it's not coach Rice, then it's coach (Justin) Hutson or coach (Stacey) Augmon," Ben said. "I've been seeing UNLV faces at all of our games.
"I know they're all great coaches, they all have great experience. I know coach Hutson is a great recruiter, coach (Heath) Schroyer has head coaching experience and coach Augmon knows how to win, especially with everything he's done as a player. I could really learn from him. I never really watched any of his games, but I've heard amazing stories about him."
Carter said he plans to at least try and take as many of his five allotted official visits this fall, but doesn't seem to be in any kind of a rush. A lot of that comes from having a father who is helping him not get overwhelmed or distracted by what has become a heated recruitment coupled with heightened attention.
"I know my dad obviously wants what's best for me. He started coaching AAU basketball because he wants what's best for me," Ben said. "I know I can trust his opinion and he knows what's best for me. It's good to have your dad there, because you can trust everything he says."
Right now, trusting everything he says means staying focused on what's happening on the floor this summer rather than who's sitting the stands.
Allen has played a major role in aiding Carter's efforts to improve.
Long-time teammates and friends, Carter and Allen not only have similar physical appearances, but are also very similar players. Instead of running side-by-side when the Lakers practice, the two go head-to-head in what have become heated clashes at times.
"We know how each other likes to play. He knows where I want the ball; I know where he wants the ball," Carter said. "My dad never puts me and Rosco on the same team. He wants us to get the best out of each other. We go at it in practice. There are times where we don't like each other after practice."
So far this summer, it's bred positive results on the floor for the Lakers when Allen and Carter are again on the same side.
More proof that, for Ben Carter, father knows best.
"He's grounded, continues to work hard, and that's the way we like it," Mike said. "He's good. I know he's good. He's going to get better, because he continues to work and continues to be humble."