Newcomer Aaron Carr Making His Mark For Men's Basketball Team|
Jan. 9, 2001
UIC forward Aaron Carr was thrown right into the fire and the freshman was not afraid of getting burned.
Carr earned his first collegiate start against the defending national champion Michigan State Spartans on December 2, and scored 11 points in a 97-53 loss. It was an eye-opening experience for the youngster.
"It was an experience," Carr said. "Now that I've played against Michigan State, I feel like I can play against anyone in the country."
That's exactly the kind of attitude that UIC head coach Jimmy Collins looks for.
"I've been looking for some players to come out and not be afraid to compete and Aaron is certainly that," Collins said. "He goes to the boards really well and he's not afraid to take charge."
Collins felt it was a matter of time before Carr cracked the starting line-up.
"I honestly thought that Aaron would break into the starting line-up," Collins said. "I didn't think he'd break into it after the second or third game. But Aaron is a fighter and he plays without fear and that's what I've been looking for.
"Aaron has leadership qualities and (the team) sees that," Collins continued. "Aaron is a tough, hard-nosed kid and he leads by example. He's one of my hardest workers in the weight room and he's always playing over here whenever he has extra time. He's already looked on upon by his teammates as a starter and as a leader."
Carr, however, knows he can't take his starting position for granted.
"It's not that I expected it, but I hoped for it," Carr said. "I hope I can continue to be in the starting line-up and work hard in practice every day. That's the main thing. Whoever works the hardest in practice and performs in the game - that's who's going to play the most."
Collins believes that Carr is playing beyond his years.
"He's not the typical freshman because he's starting," Collins said. "And typically freshmen don't come in and make that kind of mark unless they're 7-foot tall. He's not typical, because he's a guy that will be an impact player for us in the next three years."
In the six games that he has started, Carr has averaged 8.1 points per game, including 13 in an 82-73 victory over Drake on December 11. But that's just the tip of the iceberg for the Lincoln Park graduate.
Carr was a part of Coach Collins' highly touted recruiting class that included Chicago Sun Times Player of the Year Cedrick Banks (Westinghouse), first-team All-State selection Martell Bailey (Westinghouse), Will Lewis (Curie) and Armond Williams (Austin).
"It felt great to be a part of a historical recruiting class," Carr said. "It makes you feel like you're supposed to be here and you're supposed to play. It makes you feel like a superstar."
But Carr would have to wait for the opportunity to play with his classmates. Banks, Bailey and Williams are all academically ineligible while Lewis is rehabilitating his knee following ACL surgery this past fall.
"I didn't want to be the only freshman, but now it's a reality," Carr said. "It's not as tough as I thought it was going to be."
Once Collins found out the status of the rest of the freshman class, he found it was easier to focus on the task at hand.
"Once we discovered that Aaron would be the only freshman to play, it was a lot easier for us to focus in and try to get him ready to play as opposed to maybe if we had everybody there," Collins said.
But early on, Carr had his difficulties.
"In the beginning, I was frustrated out of my mind," Carr said. "My father told me there was going to be times like that. So I'm glad that those times are behind me, because I don't feel like a freshman anymore."