Despite all of the obstacles that he's hurdled throughout his career—with a little help from his 36.5-inch vertical—Aquille Carr is poised to achieve his dreams of playing in the NBA.
One way or another.
Here’s what you need to know about Carr: He's a 5’6" former high school phenom, is armed with insane handles and has experience overseas and in the NBA Developmental League.
Carr’s hoops journey has seen sky-scraping highs and humbling lows. But most of all, he's got a shot to make good on his NBA aspirations.
Analyzing Carr's Game
All packaged into a 5'6" frame.
The Baltimore native earned an iconic nickname during his days at Patterson High School on the city's east side. They called him the "Crimestopper"—because everyone wanted to see him play.
From a 2012 article by Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post:
Aquille Carr acquired that brilliant nickname because, as legend has it, all the dealers, hustlers and assorted knuckleheads in east Baltimore shut down business for those two hours every time Patterson has a game.
“Ain’t no flashing lights,” [his mother] Tammy Carr says, “until after the game.”
“Ain’t no way you’re going to try to go kill somebody or rob somebody when Patterson’s playing,” Aquille says. “Naw. They’re coming to see the show first.”
Carr has no problem challenging defenders at the rim or going straight at their chest as he bullets into the paint. The kid doesn’t lack for confidence, either.
When Princeton Day—a private school Carr eventually ended up at in Maryland—took on perennial basketball powerhouse Huntington Prep in 2012, and Andrew Wiggins was ESPN's No. 1 ranked high school player, Carr had a playful message for the future lottery pick:
“You can’t guard me.”
That claim remains somewhat debatable, though. Carr scored 24 points in a losing effort against Wiggins, shooting just 8-of-31 from the field. Wiggins finished with 14 points and 16 boards, though the two didn’t cover each other the entire game.
During his brief D-League stint, Carr didn’t break as many ankles as he did against high schoolers, but he did prove that his style of play can be moderately successful in a professional setting.
However, there’s always room for improvement. Here’s what he told Dime Magazine in March on feedback he’s received from NBA scouts:
"First, start off being a leader, being more vocal, being a point guard. Shooting pull-ups. Not going in and taking so much contact. Getting other people in good positions to score. Like just really going out there and being a professional and just learning."
Carr went on to describe what a potential GM could expect from him if drafted:
A hardworking person that’s going to come in before practice and put up shots and do everything that the coach needs me to do. Handle everything that I’ve got to handle. If you need me to try and help somebody out or whatever—just 100 percent being mature and letting them know I can be a great NBA player and that I won’t bring any negativity to the team. [I'll] show up, play my role and just be a professional basketball player and let God finish the rest.
He’s not going to be the headliner of an NBA team. But Carr’s brand of play can provide energy off the bench at the highest level for some franchise that's willing to take a chance on him.
Who Is He?
Carr's highlight reels and mixtapes have become viral sensations, but he’s struggled to establish himself in one place.
After committing to Seton Hall in January of 2012, Carr transferred from Patterson High to The Patrick School in New Jersey, then to Arlington Country Day in Florida but never enrolled and then went back to Maryland’s Princeton Day for his senior year.
Carr also dealt with a domestic assault arrest on August 17, 2012, but the charges were dropped after he completed a 22-week program with the House of Ruth, a domestic violence center near Baltimore.
In March of 2013, Carr tweeted that he was going to forgo college basketball and play professionally.
"For my whole life, it's been hard for me," Carr said in regard to his decision to pass on college ball. "I don't want to take the easy route out, I want to go for it all. And if I lose going for it all, then that's my choice."
Carr played on a Legends Tour team with Tracy McGrady, Jason Williams and other former pros, and was offered a contract from Qingdao Double Star of the Chinese Basketball Association. However, Carr shut down the deal so that he could stay closer to his one-year-old daughter, per Brandon Parker of The Washington Post.
In October of that same year, Carr’s agent announced that the dynamo guard would be joining the D-League. After being drafted with the 43rd overall pick by the Delaware 87ers, Carr was waived despite averaging over 10 points, two assists, a steal and two turnovers per game during in his 10 games with the cleverly-named team belonging to the Philadelphia 76ers.
“He's got some incredible gifts and talents,” 87ers general manager Brandon Williams told Alexander Pyles of The Baltimore Sun. “There's a lot he's going through privately. … It's less about his game or him being a bad kid.”
Since then, Carr told Dime Magazine that he's been training in New York and making a concerted effort to give back to the community.
"Been training two times a day—hard work, putting it in," he said. "Just trying to get back on the right track. There was a lot of negative stuff going on so I’m just trying to give back in a positive way."
On April 20, Carr declared for the NBA draft.
The Road Less Traveled
Carr is not the pioneer of the I-don’t-need-college-basketball approach.
While Carr and Jennings are not the same player, the fact that the Pistons starting point guard, who put up 15.5 points and 7.6 assists in 2013-14, didn’t light it up overseas bodes well for the 144-pound Baltimore native.
Carr's D-League numbers didn’t match his monstrous high school stats—the Crimestopper was known for being a high-scoring, strong-passing point guard with a nose for racking up steals.
When Carr announced that he was turning down Seton Hall, Jennings offered the youngster some advice. Jennings, in part, had this to say about Carr—courtesy of a 2013 story by ESPN.com’s Dave Telep:
"His game, when I watch his highlights, it’s real flashy. He has that New York, East Coast-style basketball. My advice to him is to learn how to play the pro game. He’s going to have to learn to play over there anyway, learn how to set guys up and tone it down a little bit."
Another successful college bypasser was Glen Rice Jr., who took his talents to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Houston Rockets’ D-League affiliate, after getting the boot from Georgia Tech. Rice Jr. now plays for the Washington Wizards.
Bleacher Report's lead NBA draft expert Jonathan Wasserman detailed Rice's rise through the ranks:
Over the course of the season, Rice evolved into the key guy for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, eventually guiding them to a title and putting up monster numbers in the process.
But unlike most D-Leaguers—guys who've struggled to stick in the NBA—Rice Jr. was still a young prospect with plenty of room to grow. His play generated buzz in pro scouting departments, ultimately leading to the Washington Wizards selecting him No. 35 overall in last June's draft.
Carr could also look to Pierre Jackson's journey for encouragement. Jackson, a 5’8” guard from Baylor, was a late-round draft pick in 2013 but wound up in the D-League.
Jackson absolutely tore it up during his time with the Idaho Stampede, averaging over 29 points and six assists per game as well as breaking the NBADL single-game scoring record with a 58-point explosion on February 4.
"Now, the New Orleans Pelicans are giving the sweet-shooting Jackson, who is participating in the team's offseason workouts and will likely play in the Las Vegas Summer League next month, his best chance yet at sticking in the Association."
So for Carr, there are options.
There are different roads to take on his journey to the pros, and some paths have already been paved.
If Carr is drafted on June 26 and takes a version of the Jennings route, good for him.
But if his stock slips, Carr can head back to the Developmental League, light it up for a season or two and put himself back into position for a call-up or a chance in the summer league.
In such a point guard-heavy league, every team is looking for backcourt depth. But here are a couple of teams that would be especially inclined to give Carr a shot:
New York Knicks
Raymond Felton is a goner, Pablo Prigioni was entertaining two years ago but is essentially ineffective now and Toure' Murry is a wild card. Carr’s flashy, East Coast style would be a hit with the Knicks' fanbase and could give the ‘Bockers a firework show of a bench with J.R. Smith or Tim Hardaway Jr.
The likelihood of the Knicks pulling the trigger on Carr as a FA skyrockets if the team can’t buy or trade its way into the 2014 draft, but New York could also look at him if it can finagle into the second round.
Shaun Livingston may or may not be back, but regardless, the Nets need PG depth. And like their crosstown rivals, they don’t have any stock in the upcoming draft.
Carr is young and freaky athletic, and veterans like Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson and (perhaps) Paul Pierce would quickly let him know his role. Brooklyn would be a great landing spot for the Crimestopper.
Wouldn’t nabbing Carr be such a typical Heat move? Miami has a proclivity to take chances on guys—Chris Andersen, Norris Cole, Michael Beasley, Greg Oden—and more often than not, it works out well. I guess that’s the luxury of having LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the same team.
Starting PG Mario Chalmers will be a free agent this summer, and Carr could become what Cole has been the past few years—a cheap, score-first backup who prospers in the second unit.
What Does Carr’s Future Hold?
For all that he’s overcome along his journey to the NBA, Carr isn’t going to give up now.
Could that change over the next few weeks? Sure. That's why Carr is such a wild card. The buzz around him has dialed down, but his game is improving.
There is still a chance that commissioner Adam Silver calls his name on June 26. Carr is confident that it'll happen—he told Shams Charania of RealGM that he hasn’t looked beyond the draft.
“My agency and I, we look forward to me getting drafted,” Carr said. “I look at getting drafted and working hard until getting that day.”
But let’s be real. It’s entirely possible that he goes undrafted and winds up in the D-League for a few seasons, or perhaps takes his talents overseas.
Keep a close eye on Carr once the 2014 draft gets into the later picks, but be mindful that his NBA hopes don't end on June 26.
Despite the odds stacked against him, count on Carr—whose heart and basketball prowess tower over his physical stature—to somehow, someway achieve his NBA dreams in the coming years.