After the Mike Rice fiasco, Rutgers players are predictably jumping ship. That includes scoring guard, Eli Carter. Carter has been granted his transfer from Rutgers and has listed Pitt among six schools in which he's interested.
First things first. Pitt needs help and Carter can provide it. He's not a perfect player by any means, but is one that can put the ball in the basket. He averaged just under 14 points a game as a freshman and this season, led the team with 14.9 points per game. He has the ability to get to the basket and hit from the outside. If we're talking about bringing guys in, I'd be in favor of this.
And of course, the big benefit would be that he could be eligible immediately if the NCAA would (correctly) rule that the Mike Rice issue is a special circumstance that forced the guard's hand. Carter's addition would be a big boost to the 2013 team.
That said, if the Panthers do land him, just know that he comes with some flaws.
For one, Carter's not a great shooter - even shooting his teams out of games, according to some. You could even argue he's not a very good one. He actually regressed a bit from his first season, falling from nearly 41% of his shots made to about 38% last year. That's likely due to the added attention paid to him by other teams after his strong freshman year, but still - a shooting guard that makes 38% of his shots could use some work. And making only 32% of his three-pointers made him a bit of a liability there as well.
Along with that, he's incredibly streaky. Against Pitt, Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Georgetown, he averaged more than 21 points a game. But there were a lot of bad performances, too. The 1-12 night against Ole miss. The 4-12 and five turnover display against Iona. A 1-11 day against Cincinnati where he also fouled out. 1-14 and five turnovers against St. John's. Carter has been up and down and you never quite know what you're going to get.
Carter also needs to take better care of the ball. Pitt's guards have thrived over the years with good assist to turnover ratios, but Carter has had more turnovers than assists each season (2.8 to 2.1 each season).
So how does he score so many points? Simple - by getting to the free throw line. He excelled there last season, making more than 86% of his shots. In ten games, he got to the line at least five times and it's contributed to his scoring success. About 27% of his points came from the free throw line and in many games, the number was far above that. Need a comparison on where that ranks? He stacks up very well against some of the best Big East guards in that number. Here are the top five guards in terms of scoring in the Big East last year along with the percentage of points that came at the free throw line:
Bryce Cotton (22%)
Russ Smith (30%)
D'Angelo Harrison (23%)
Shabazz Napier (25%)
Sean Kilpatrick (19%)
And for good measure, Pitt's own Tray Woodall had only 15% of his points come from the line last year. Carter tops all except Smith. For a guard that scores as much as Carter, 27% is a high number. And that's important because it shows his ability to drive to the basket - something that's been missing from Pitt over the years. Plus, making more than 86% of his free throws means he's more successful than most of the guards Pitt has had once he gets to the line. It also gives them a solid go to option late in games when the team will need to make free throws to hold onto games.
When you factor in everything, Carter is worth having around. Pitt is in need of an offensive guard. Badly. I've been over James Robinson's offensive struggles. And after losing out on Jon Severe, the recent Trey Zeigler transfer, and the graduation of Tray Woodall, the Panthers really need points in the backcourt.
A word of caution, though. If Pitt somehow manages to land Carter, it may not be as easy as plugging him in and getting a dozen points or so. As we saw with Zeigler, adding a proven scorer doesn't mean it will translate into instant success. The one thing that makes me a bit more confident with this move, though, is that Carter played in the Big East while Zeigler had not. Carter's faced much stiffer competition and should be ready to play in the ACC. If we're being fair, Zeigler posted good numbers against the better teams he played at Central Michigan. But that's nothing like the daily grind of facing Big East teams.
Plus, don't be too dismayed by Carter's issues. He's still got two more years ahead of him and the chances that he improves in those areas are pretty high.
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