In junior college, Darius Carter got the ball, shot and usually scored. Repeat the next time down the court.
At Wichita State, things are different. After three games rushing into a hook shot and rarely passing, Carter played patiently on Saturday and turned in his best performance of the young season. He scored nine points, seven in the second half, on 3-of-5 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 16 minutes in an 85-71 win over Tennessee State.
“The first few games I came out too rushed,” Carter said. “I’m coming from teams where I’m used to being the first or second option. I’m not that this year. I don’t have to shoot the ball every time.”
Carter, a 6-foot-7 power forward, sat out Tuesday’s practice after spraining his right ankle and called himself day to day. The 14th-ranked Shockers (4-0) play at Tulsa (0-2) on Wednesday and WSU coach Gregg Marshall said the decision to play rests with Carter.
“It’s a pain-tolerance thing,” Marshall said. “It’s up to him, but it did not look good (Tuesday).”
Regardless of whether or not Carter plays Wednesday, he will play an important role this season for the Shockers. Ignore the struggles in his first three games, guard Fred VanVleet said. Carter, an NJCAA All-American, averaged 15.8 points and made 54 percent of his shots last season at Vincennes (Ind.) University.
“People don’t understand how hard or how much pressure there is playing at Koch Arena for your first few times,” VanVleet said. “I think he just wanted to prove himself so much he was forcing it a little bit. He’s very talented in the low block, and I like what I’ve seen from him lately.”
WSU coach Gregg Marshall wants Carter to take advantage of his post skills by attacking the defense and drawing fouls. In the first three games he relied on a jump hook, often from well outside the lane. On Saturday, Carter shot after making a move to the basket. He twice drew fouls, turning one sequence into a three-point play.
“He’s making moves, he’s making solid moves,” Marshall said. “He just wasn’t flailing a fade-away shot. He was trying to get to the rim.”
Carter missed eight of his first 10 shots as a Shocker. Success in his fourth game came as a relief.
“It helped me to learn what I have to do for the next game — just relax and make the right move,” he said.
While Marshall is happy to see Carter fit more effectively into the offense, rebounding and defense remain top priorities. Tulsa appears to be a team that can be exploited by a fierce rebounding team. The Shockers haven’t played like that team consistently so far this season. Oral Roberts outrebounded Tulsa 45-28 and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds. Missouri State outrebounded Tulsa 38-33 with 14 offensive rebounds.
“We just need (the big men) to be better on the defensive end and better on rebounding,” VanVleet said. “We know they’re talented players on offense and that will come with time.”