When Jason Carter made a 3-pointer in practice Oct. 3, it wasn’t a big deal for him.
Of course it went in. It should’ve gone in. It better have.
But coach Saul Phillips stopped practice after Carter made the shot. He screamed with joy and ran toward Carter to hug him.
“I was being a big smart aleck,” Phillips said. “He’s so hard on himself.”
Carter has big expectations for himself. He’s a perfectionist.
He says that he envisions himself as a LeBron James-type player as a finished product. He means it in terms of basketball IQ, but that’s his benchmark: the best basketball player in the world.
Over the summer, Phillips worked with Carter on shooting. He wants the Johnstown native to be able to stretch the his jump shot to the 3-point line. Badly.
Carter said there were times where he shot 800 shots in an hour. He shot off the dribble, he spotted up, then he did more of both.
“I took so many shots this summer,” Carter said. “It was a lot.”
Carter expects results from his hours in the gym. His high expectations for himself carry over to his jump shot now. But when he doesn’t meet his expectations, it’s noticeable. You don’t even have to watch him.
Phillips participated in a disability awareness exercise recently. He wore sunglasses colored in with Sharpie marker ink, rendering him blind for a day.
Even then, he could tell when Carter missed his shots. Carter wouldn’t let the misses go quietly. Each one was followed with a frustrated mumble.
“If I heard whether he made or missed, then he was reacting too much,” Phillips said.
So when Carter made the 3-pointer in practice, Phillips decided to balance out Carter’s frustrations.
“I decided that if he’s gonna get on himself every time he misses one, then I’m gonna go absolutely out of my head every time he makes one,” Phillips said.
Even though Phillips pokes fun at his starting center, he understands why Carter puts so much pressure on himself.
At six-feet-eight-inches tall, he has the team’s highest vertical leap and best lateral quickness and is the fastest player running the floor, according to Phillips. He showed flashes of stardom last season after Antonio Campbell’s injury.
His teammates see what he sees.
“He can do whatever he puts his mind to,” guard Jordan Dartis said.
This year, Carter is putting his mind to stretching the floor and making plays for his teammates. He knows the double teams will come this season. He dealt with them in high school, but now he has to navigate them against players his size.
He said he’s going to spend a lot of time in the film room. That’s the only way to see the floor like LeBron does.
Carter wants to become a vocal leader — he’s putting a lot of responsibility on his shoulders because he believes he needs to.
He made two 3-pointers in Saturday’s exhibition against Capital. But he probably only remembers the one he missed.
Carter is a preseason All-MAC East Division team selection. Everyone has expectations for him now.
It’s up to Phillips to keep the perfectionist in check.
“When (my kids) were really little and they’d have temper tantrums, I’d just start yelling and screaming louder than they were,” Phillips said. “That’s my strategy with Jason, too.”