Ethan Happ entered the AAU season a year ago as a "no-name" player looking for an opportunity. What followed was a verbal commitment to Wisconsin that capped a whirlwind recruiting process.|
Can the same thing happen to Rock Island junior guard C.J. Carr?
From Happ's viewpoint, it will.
"There are times I'm amazed at what he can do," said Happ, a Rockridge junior forward and Carr's teammate with the Quad City Elite. "He's a great player. I know he's going to get looks from big schools."
Time will tell if Carr gets that coveted offer, but the pressure he's placing on his shoulders has nothing to do with the next level. What drives him the most is improving on a season that ended with Carr being named Associated Press Class 4A All-State honorable mention.
"It's going to be a big offseason," Carr said on Sunday during the Quad City Elite media day at Black Hawk College. "But it's also about getting better. If I play my hardest, all of that will come. All I have to do is play hard and play my game."
As of today, Carr's only offer is the one he received from Division II Truman State last summer. Some Horizon League and Missouri Valley Conference programs plus a few other Division II schools have shown interest in the 5-foot-7 point guard, but no more offers have been extended.
Still uncommitted, the focus rests solely on his senior season. Nothing will shake Carr from his No. 1 priority this offseason.
"Getting better," Carr said. "That's about it."
Taking a seasoned approach into the AAU season should have its benefits. Carr spoke often about being more mature this year with Rocky, allowing him to average a team-best 12.5 points and 4.3 assists. With Carr setting the tone, the Rocks won a fourth consecutive Western Big 6 Conference title and reached the Class 4A sectional championship game.
Among improvements noticeable this season were a more consistent shot, a tougher defender and more efficient passer as evidence.
All of those areas need further improvement in Carr's mind. That, not the college process, is what he thinks about the most.
"I don't want to have any regrets," Carr said. "I'm mentally tougher this year and I can keep playing hard. When I play my hardest, things will take care of themselves."
Experience and a drive put things in perspective.
Admitting he "had a couple lapses" in play and sharpness last summer, Carr focuses on making sure his game remains consistent. Do that, he can shake off the disappointment from a 71-45 loss to Edwardsville in the sectional final.
Do all of that and anything seems possible.That includes his college destination.
"I'm anxious, but I want to be patient and let it take care of itself," Carr said. "Last year, I tried doing too much and wanted to impress scouts. I understand if I play my game and be patient, it will take care of itself."
In his mind, that's the best approach.
"I've got to get better," Carr said. "Coaches will see that."
More importantly, he will develop into a better player. Despite other distractions that could consume him in the next few months, Carr will not budge from his goal of simply improving.
Already a few weeks into this pivotal stretch, there is a swagger this can get done.
"I'm very confident," Carr said. "I'm going to work my tail off and be the best I can."
Potential coaches should take notice of that.
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