Thursday, July 3, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Ben Carter wanted to experience life outside of Las Vegas. Now that he’s back, there’s some debate as to whether the Bishop Gorman High grad ever should have left for Oregon over UNLV in the first place.
How will UNLV basketball do in 2014-15?
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- 9-4 — 26.2%
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- 8-5 — 12.6%
- 11-2 — 11.0%
- 13-0 — 6.2%
- 12-1 — 1.9%
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His father and former youth coach, Mike Carter, probably took the decision the toughest two years ago. And it didn’t get much better watching his son’s minutes and production flat line as the Ducks played Ben Carter, listed at 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, as an undersized center.
“I thought it was going to be UNLV because it was going to be the best fit,” Mike Carter said. “They used him out of position up there and wasted two years of his career.”
Gorman coach Grant Rice stayed in regular contact with Ben Carter. A former UNLV player and brother of Rebels coach Dave Rice, Grant Rice doesn’t hide his love for all things scarlet and gray. But at the time, Grant Rice said, he liked the decision and the possible fit with the Ducks.
“It was good for Ben to leave home and experience that college life and get away for awhile,” he said, “but I think it was time where he wanted to come home.”
What does the man himself think? Ben Carter must sit out this season, per NCAA transfer rules, and then will have two years of eligibility remaining starting with the 2015-16 season. Even though he acknowledged it's frustrating missing a year of games, Ben Carter doesn't want a redo.
“I don’t regret it at all,” Ben Carter said. “I had to get away from Vegas.”
When he decided to transfer, UNLV seemed like the obvious choice. That was confirmed by Ben Carter’s first conversation with Dave Rice, who had recruited and nearly signed him the first time around.
“We hadn’t talked in two years and it felt like we had just talked yesterday,” Ben Carter said. “That’s the kind of relationship we have.”
Mike Carter was “ecstatic” to get his son back in town and the two have quickly picked up old habits. Mike Carter is helping his son suffer through two-a-day workouts and coaching his team in the Desert Reign Pro City Summer League.
Ben Carter said his focus during the year off would be adding some weight and improving the shot that he hopes to use much more than he was allowed to at Oregon. Dave Rice said he’s counting on Ben Carter to make the team better in practice while imparting some lessons he learned from three NCAA Tournament victories, something that Carter is already trying to pass on.
“It showed me that if a team wants to go a long way,” Ben Carter said, “it needs to start from the beginning.”
Mike Carter, a 17-year professional player overseas, is already doing what he can in that department. Recently he had the Rebels who are already in town over to his house for a team breakfast, and he wants to host more team gatherings in the future.
“You build camaraderie off the court,” he said. “It’s going to rub off; I can see it. … Those are good guys.”
After averaging 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.4 minutes per game his freshman year at Oregon, Ben Carter’s sophomore season started with a nine-game NCAA suspension for selling shoes he received from the university. His roommate, Findlay Prep product Dominic Artis, was also suspended.
By the time Ben Carter came back, Oregon was 9-0 and ranked in the top 15 with guys like former Rebel Mike Moser filling in the production that could have been his. Ben Carter’s production and minutes never picked up — season averages: 2.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game — and it became clear a change was coming.
As for the off-court issues, Ben Carter accepted the punishment and admitted his fault. Mike Carter believes his son will thrive away from certain influences in Oregon — Artis was one of three players kicked off the team and out of school after the season following rape allegations — and Grant Rice sees his former player as a potential face of the program.
“He’s going to be a great ambassador for the school and the city,” Grant Rice said.
Reaching that status might depend, in part, on how much Ben Carter is able to contribute to this year’s team in practice. Dave Rice’s resume lacks an NCAA Tournament victory, and while that’s weighted far too heavily in examining a coach’s aptitude it’s also a reality that contracts and careers are launched by getting to the last weekend in March.
“I’ve seen what it takes to be successful at that level,” Ben Carter said.
Helping lead the Rebels to that goal from the bench would only build excitement for actually getting Ben Carter on the court in a UNLV uniform. And although he had wanted to get out of the desert, it might also make some wonder if they shouldn’t have been seeing that for the past two years.
“I think his heart was UNLV from the start,” Grant Rice said.