This is the time of the school year when it is difficult to be a well-known senior athlete with murky college plans. Because the question in the hallway or classroom or convenience store is never “Hey, where are you going next year?” it’s, “Hey, where are you playing next year?”
“Yeah, I get that a lot,” O’Connell girls’ basketball player Nicole Carty said with a weary chuckle. “I’m always like, yeah, I don’t think I’m going to [play in college]. And they say, ‘What! You can’t do that!’”
Carty, who led the Washington area in three-pointers this season with 100, is not sure what she wants to do, or even what her options ultimately will be. That makes her one of the more intriguing players in the Capital Classic girls’ games Saturday afternoon at T.C. Williams.
Carty’s team of private school all-stars will play in the 2 p.m. game against a team of District public school all-stars. Virginia and Maryland public school players square off in the noon game.
Carty could be going to James Madison University and playing intramural ball, but she is wait-listed there. She could be going to Christopher Newport to play Division III ball, but the Captains are between coaches. Randolph-Macon liked her, but the school did not feel like the right fit for her. She’s been accepted at Radford, but she has not contacted the coaches there.
Or Carty could be going to some school that to this point she has never heard of, if she attracts a late offer, perhaps based off her performance Saturday, when she joins forces with 10 other seniors, nine of whom have committed to Division I schools.
“I’m definitely looking to have fun, but I do want to make sure I’m still [visible to recruiters],” said Carty, who had 12 points and four assists in an all-star game last month in Hagerstown. “I hope people see me and see if I can play basketball longer than just this game.”
Many of the Capital Classic honorees specialized in basketball and played on national AAU teams. The 5-foot-10 Carty earned 11 varsity letters at O’Connell running cross-country and playing basketball and lacrosse, a decision that she does not regret because of the variety of friends that she has made. She played on the Potomac Valley Vogues’ regional AAU team, not the higher-profile national team.
The downside to playing multiple sports and to not cracking the Vogues’ national team is that it can indicate that basketball is not her first priority. And her O’Connell team went 12-60 in conference games during her time there. So she feels somewhat underexposed, much of it her own doing.
“I feel like I was always on the borderline of whether I wanted to play [in college] and I wasn’t totally committed to it and I didn’t portray that [commitment] to the coaches probably enough,” Carty said. “I wanted to pick the school before I picked the basketball program.”
After playing sports year-round for so long, Carty is intrigued at the idea of being a regular college student. Her sister Colleen, a second-team All-Met softball pitcher in 2008, threw a perfect game in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title game her senior year and considered that the end of her sports career.
She went to JMU, where she is now a senior. Her dad, Bruce Carty, said that Colleen mentioned to him a couple of years ago that in hindsight she had second thoughts about leaving athletics. That’s the question her younger sister faces now.
One thing for certain is that Carty — a 1,200-point career scorer, second-team all-WCAC choice and honorable mention All-Met — is likely to get open looks Saturday playing on a team that includes seniors bound for Georgetown, Virginia, Memphis , Drexel, Towson, Sacred Heart and Morgan State, a list that includes All-Mets Faith Randolph, Mooriah Rowser and Katie McCormick.
As O’Connell’s primary offensive threat, Carty sank the area-high 100 three-pointers for the Knights (10-21, 1-17 in the WCAC) , shooting 28 percent from that range. She made at least one three-pointer in 29 of 31 games, including back-to-back outings with six followed by back-to-back games with five.
“She’s been doing this the past four years against all these girls who are playing Division I,” said Bruce Carty , the Knights’ statkeeper, adding that his daughter likely would have to put on weight to play at that level.
This season Carty averaged 15.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 1.9 assists.
“In my mind, she could play at any [Division III] school in the country right now,” said O’Connell Coach Jimmy Brown, who advised Carty to shoot 17 to 20 times per game this season because the team needed her to do so. “I hope it ends up with her enjoying whatever she does and that she chooses her own path of what she wants to do.”
That’s what Carty wants, too, wherever that may be. The Capital Classic could be the end of something, or the beginning. Or both.
“There’s not too much pressure for me on Saturday,” she said. “I’m just looking to have a good time and maybe someone will see me who’s never seen me and say, ‘I like the way she plays.’”