Robert Carter Jr. had visited St. John’s and thought nothing could be better. The former Georgia Tech forward, seeking a new home for his final two seasons of college basketball, had also visited South Carolina, and planned to see two more schools after coming to Maryland. Now?
“The other ones don’t even matter,” he said.
A detailed vision spelled out by Coach Mark Turgeon over a visit lasting nearly three days convinced Carter to join the Terrapins, announcing his transfer Friday morning. It included spending a season waiting to become eligible again biding his time inside the weight room with director of basketball performance Kyle Tarp. It included teaching a host of young big men like Damonte Dodd, Trayvon Reed and Michal Cekovsky, players who will look up to Carter for his elite productivity at Georgia Tech, during practice. It included brushing aside the desire to become a 20-point-a-night scorer, a sentiment Carter never really had anyway, and deferring to the collective will of a team still struggling to make noise on the national level.
“Once I got there, I could see how it would come about,” Carter said Friday in a telephone interview with the Post and Baltimore Sun. “It was the perfect place to fit me.”
On his visit, Carter was hosted by forward Jake Layman. They toured campus, ate at nearby restaurants and visited the gym. He didn’t mention dropping 19 points and 10 rebounds on Maryland in 2012-13, but he was pretty sure the players remembered anyway. Inside Comcast Center, he saw a new crop of Terps working out, another roster overhaul under Turgeon following an offseason when five players transferred. Gone were Shaq Cleare, Charles Mitchell, Nick Faust, Roddy Peters and Seth Allen. In their place were five freshmen – including Reed, a former AAU teammate of Carter’s, and Cekovsky – and graduate student transfer Richaud Pack, who Carter played against during a 78-71 win over North Carolina A&T last season.
Carter grabbed 13 rebounds that game, one of seven double-digit rebound games he logged. He brings a legitimate interior scoring threat to Maryland, at a level Turgeon has not coached in College Park, but will have to bide his time on the bench this season, ineligible per NCAA rules. He can practice – and, like Evan Smotrycz two seasons ago, should add a measure of dominance to the scout team – and attend home games, but cannot travel.
“This season is going to be me and [Tarp] a lot,” Carter said. “We’re going to work on different things, overall skillset to become a better player. It’s not going to be a sit-out year as most people would say. It’s going to be a grind year. I want to come back and be ready to play for the University of Maryland and help win, help leave a legacy.”
Like everyone else Turgeon has encountered in the recruiting world these days, Carter also had questions about the exodus. The Terps have acquitted themselves nicely in the time since, luring Cekovsky from overseas and signing both Pack and Carter, which put them one scholarship short of the NCAA-permitted maximum.
“I feel like he’s doing and they’re doing what’s best for the program,” Carter said. “He’s a great guy and he can’t control who wants to leave the program, but he has a plan set for the guys who are there. That’s all I’m worried about. I feel like he brought in a lot of players who are going to be great. That’s all I was worried about. Of course, some guys were leaving, but when you look at it and think about it, everything that happens is best for the Maryland program.”
But Carter left Maryland without committing, something he promised he would do, to mull the decision back home in Georgia. Kansas and Florida were also in pursuit. He had other options. But something about Maryland felt right.
“I think this is the spot for me,” he told his parents.
“Go ahead,” they replied.