High-flying Amari Carter resting easy
If she finds a spare hour -- or, heck, even 30 minutes -- Amari Carter quickly settles in.
"On a chair, on the floor, in the backseat of the car -- I can sleep anywhere," Carter said with a laugh. "If I have a free period at school, I will sleep. I don't even need a pillow. I just use my jacket or whatever I've got."
Yes, Carter loves to snooze, but college coaches and scouts were never sleeping on this 5-foot-8 point guard from St. John's College High School (Washington, D.C.). She is the No. 7 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2015 class, and on Sunday she committed to Penn State.
As a junior last season, Carter led St. John's to a 25-9 record and the D.C. city championship, averaging 17.5 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
She was even better in Washington Catholic Athletic Conference play, averaging 22.5 points and leading St. John's to second place in the highly competitive league.
Carter was also named first-team All-Met by The Washington Post.
Her nickname is "Bird" because she can fly, according to teammates.
"Everyone who sees her is impressed with her vertical leap and her ability to get her shot off in the lane anytime she wants," St. John's coach Jonathan Scribner said.
"Her midrange game from 13 to 17 feet is very unusual for someone her age. Most kids will shoot the 3 or take it to the rim. But Amari can jump so high that you can't really stop her pull-up jumper. She's unguardable -- it's just a question of whether or not she makes the shot."
An early riser
Carter has been making shots for years.
Her father, Maurice Carter, is a left-hander -- just like Amari. Maurice was a 5-11 high school guard at Spingarn (Washington, D.C.) until he broke his ankle twice and was forced to stop playing as a sophomore.
Maurice, though, was instrumental in teaching his daughter to shoot.
"I would take her to the playground, and she would shoot with two hands," he said. "I told her, 'Your right hand is just to hold the ball in place. You shoot and follow through with your left hand.'"
Carter said it took her a year to get comfortable with the correct form.
"I was awful at first, and I still haven't mastered it," Carter said modestly.
In third grade, Carter played against fourth- and fifth-grade boys.
"She was very skinny, and, initially, the boys didn't know she was a girl," said Erika Anderson, Amari's mom. "When they found out she was a girl, things turned around.
"The boys said: 'Oh, no, we can't let a girl beat us.' So they double-teamed and triple-teamed her. But that just made her try harder."
Pretty soon, though, a rule was put in place at J.C. Nalle Elementary School that banned kids from playing outside their grade level.
With no team to play on, Carter was disappointed but undeterred. She asked her father to find a girls' AAU program, and he tried -- and tried and tried.
At the time, there weren't many options for young girls who wanted to play basketball. In fact, it took a year to find a program, DC Heat.
Until they found DC Heat, Carter had been dogged and determined.
"I wanted to play organized basketball, and I would badger my dad every day," she said. "I was like: 'Did you find a team? Did you hear about a team? Do you know any teams?'"
Carter no longer has to go searching for a team -- they come to her.
Robert Hildreth, who coaches her for the Maryland Lady Terps AAU team, said Penn State contacted him at 7:15 a.m. on the first day they were allowed to start recruiting her in the summer between her freshman and sophomore years of high school.
That was followed by phone calls from Maryland, Kentucky and Notre Dame, among others. Louisville, Hildreth said, offered her a scholarship after merely watching her in warm-ups.
Hildreth said he has seen Carter, who can touch the rim, use her amazing leaping ability to pluck passes out of midair that he was sure were going over her head.
"She will lock you down defensively, but she does it with such grace," Hildreth said of Carter, who averaged 21 points for his club team last year.
"She's very calm. Nothing gets to her. I will talk to her during a game, and she says: 'I got this.' And she does. She sees the game before it happens."
Hildreth compares Carter's playing style with former Duke guard Johnny Dawkins, the NCAA Player of the Year in 1986 who played in the NBA and is now the men's basketball coach at Stanford.
Carter said she had never heard of Dawkins when Hildreth made the comparison.
"Then I looked him up [online] and it said he was a lefty with a nice pull-up," Carter said. "I said, 'Yep, that's pretty much me.' Then I saw him on YouTube, and that really cleared it up."
One possible difference between Dawkins and Carter is the socks.
Carter has been known to wear mismatched pairs. She will wear one with stripes and one solid ... one black and one red ... even polka dots.
"I thought it was crazy," said St. John's guard Britani Stowe, who will play for Eastern Michigan this fall. "But it was working for her."
With a 3.1 GPA, an interest in accounting and vast basketball potential, Carter had no trouble finding college suitors.
She chose Penn State because, she said, "it's one of those things, where I know it's right."
Up next will be the USA U17 Basketball trials in Colorado Springs, which begin next week. Carter was one of 39 players invited to the tryouts. If she makes the 12-player squad, Carter will spend parts of June and July representing the United States at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship in the Czech Republic.
Previously, Carter had said she wanted to make her college choice by July so she could have a worry-free summer. Now she figures to rest easy -- or easier, as it were.
"On the bus on the way to the game or in between games or after games," Hildreth said, "she likes to sleep."
Stowe said it's not wise to try to wake her buddy up.
Carter will sometimes sleep over at Stowe's house, and getting her ready for school is not an easy task.
"It's usually a fight when you try to wake her," Stowe said. "Then she gets in the car and goes right back to sleep. It's like she tries to hibernate."