Lost in the shuffle amongst a truly frustrating, deflating, and gut-wrenching loss for the Nittany Lions on Wednesday night was yet another eye-opening performance by sophomore guard Tony Carr.
The 6-foot-5 distributor from Philadelphia finished with 29 points, leaving him just one shy of what would have been his third 30-point output of the 2017-’18 season.
Overall this year, Carr is averaging 21.3 points per game to go along with 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists, while showing measurable improvements in his shooting, three-point, and free-throw percentages when compared to last year.
During his freshman campaign, Carr was one of the better kept secrets in the NCAA, as playing for Penn State is typically a good way to fly under the radar. However, his developmental leap forward this year is starting to turn heads and generate some well-deserved recognition for the skilled point guard.
The Nittany Lions have a long standing tradition of producing talented guards, with the likes of Talor Battle, D.J. Newbill, and Tim Frazier having suited up for Penn State in recent memory. However, none of the aforementioned had the combination of physical size and natural ability that Carr posses.
So this should be great news for coach Pat Chambers and the Nittany Lion faithful as they hope Carr and this current collection of players will be the ones to finally elevate the Penn State hoops program to consistent success, right?
Not so fast.
During Wednesday’s Miami Hurricanes-Minnesota Golden Gophers game, color commentator Fran Fraschilla made an offhand statement when discussing the Big Ten’s best that he’s heard from a number of NBA scouts who are very intrigued by the play of Tony Carr.
Now one comment from one ESPN employee should not cause impending panic to sweep over Happy Valley. Taking a look throughout history, Penn State’s program has never been known for producing elite level players. Currently, only two alumni of the Nittany Lions hoops team are getting paid to play professionally in North America, with Tim Frazier suiting up for the Washington Wizards and Ross Travis catching passes at tight end for the Indianapolis Colts.
And if you wanted to find the last Nittany Lion who was selected in the NBA draft, you’d need to go all the way back to 1999 when Calvin Booth was taken with the fifth pick in the second round by the Washington Wizards.
So now everyone in State College can exhale, yes?
Ehhhh, not quite.
Carr’s progression is somewhat of a double-edged sword for Penn State. With each highlight reel dunk or 30-foot three, he keeps on giving scouts more reason to take notice.
This could ultimately leave Penn State fans being faced with a question they aren’t used to considering. Could one of our basketball players forgo eligibility to turn pro?
On its face it seems like a silly thing to entertain, but is it really?
This past summer, Carr was invited to Nike’s Elite Camp in Los Angeles where he was joined by the likes of Grayson Allen and Amir Coffey to learn from some of the NBA’s best.
When you compare Carr against some of the aforementioned Penn State all-time guards, he comes out looking like a Monstar from Space Jam, as in he stole the best of their individual talents.
He’s able to drive the ball to the rim with the strength of a D.J. Newbill. He’s got the ability to hit a big shot much like Talor Battle was known for. And he’s able to make his teammates better by distributing the basketball a la Tim Frazier.
On top of that he doesn’t have any of the deficiencies that kept all of those players from making an immediate impact in the NBA post-Penn State careers, whether that be a lack of height, shooting touch or just not fitting the mold of an NBA point guard.
So while Penn State doesn’t have the pedigree of producing NBA level talent, Tony Carr is different. He’s either the start of a new trend for Penn State or an eventual aberration amongst a decent amount of former players plying their trade overseas.
None of this is to say Carr will definitely be making the leap after this upcoming season. He still has to progress and garner enough attention at a school not known for creating NBA prospects. But if Penn State is able to accomplish one of its main goals this year and qualify for the NCAA Tournament, you can bet Carr kept up his elite level of play.
And if that’s the case, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him test the waters this upcoming summer to see where his draft stock stands.
With each passing game that Tony Carr shines, it’s starting to look more and more that it’s a matter of when Tony Carr makes his way to the NBA and not if. For a Penn State program banking on him to help lead its hoops revolution, they’d be best served to take advantage of his talents while they still have them.