Key Contributor: Carter brings the x-factor to men’s basketball team

By Allen Jordan

In every sport, each team has that x-factor which can provide the spark of energy at any moment on any given night. For the Oakland University men’s basketball team, that boost comes in the form of 6-foot-9 reserve forward Raphael Carter.

Big fish, small pond

Coming out of Olentangy High School in Lewis Center, Ohio, Carter took a different course than the average top recruit, opting out of the chance to play with U-M star Trey Burke and Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger in choosing to attend the private institution.

“I just wanted to be on my own,” Carter said. “Even though I would have a chance to play those guys, I knew it would be better for my development to go somewhere I could be the main guy.”

Eventually Carter got the chance to play with Burke as the teammates led the All-Ohio Red team in 2009 to the Amateur Athletic Union 16-and-under national championship over Nike Team Florida.

On the heels of the AAU championship, in his senior season, Carter only played six games, averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds during those games.

“The opportunity against the Florida team helped me grow in so many ways,” Carter said. “Although I only played in six games, that summer experience helped motivate me coming into my senior year. I just felt it was me being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

A big adjustment

With the brief setback his senior year, Carter eventually chose to attend Diablo Community College in California with the goal in mind to put his education first and obtain an associate degree.

On the court, Carter did not miss a beat during his freshman year. He averaging 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks to help lead the Vikings to a Big 8 conference title in 2011. He followed that up with a productive seven point, eight rebounds a game average including 75 blocked shots for a 2.8 average a game during his sophomore season.

Playing in a smaller conference, the forward stood tall amongst other players. Carter registered as the tallest player in the conference at 6-foot-9. Now playing against Division I competition, the challenge has been bigger than expected.

“It’s been a bit of a process,” Carter said. “Going from a situation where everyone is smaller than you and now everyone is just as big and athletic, you have to change your game and the way that you prepare to yourself for the competition.”

Better late than never

After two productive seasons at the junior college, Carter chose to transfer to Oakland just a few weeks before the 2012 season began for the Golden Grizzlies.

“I take pride in academics so the most difficult part for me was starting school a week late and having to catch up in the classroom,” Carter said.

“We hardly recruit through the junior college rankings,” Grizzlies’ head coach Greg Kampe said. “After losing Kyle Sikora in March and our two recruits, the team was in a situation where we needed a backup post player, and after receiving a couple calls, Carter caught our attention.”

Kampe cited Carter’s skills as a welcome addition to his squad.

“His athleticism, ability to rebound and block shots really caught our eye and added a dimension and spark to our team that we lacked.”

The transfer was delayed due to an issue of transferring credits from DCC. With that delay, it has been part of a season full of ups and downs through injury and illness including a bout with bronchitis and fever.

After getting his first start against Pittsburgh and in a recent win against IUPUI, where he played a season-high 21 minutes scoring 12 points, the key reserve has landed the role as the sixth man for the Golden Grizzlies.

Going from star recruit to another one of the guys has been an experience that the 20-year-old feels he can only appreciate being part of anyone’s team at all.

“Being the main guy doesn’t bother me at all,” Carter said. “Just being able to be on a team is a blessing, and I’m looking to contribute in any way I can.”

Contact Staff Reporter Allen Jordan via email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aj1218