By JOEL COLEMAN
Tyson Carter has never felt like a celebrity. Last week though, the former Starkville High standout and current Mississippi State freshman guard got a taste of the star treatment.
After scoring 31 points in one of MSU’s four games in Italy, Carter was flooded with autograph and picture requests from Italian fans.
“It was nice,” Carter said. “I never really did anything like that before.”
If he keeps playing the way he did on State’s week-and-a-half-long preseason trip, Carter might want to start keeping pens and a smile ready at all times.
Carter shined in each of MSU’s four games in Italy as he helped lead the Bulldogs to an unblemished record. In his first-ever game in maroon and white on Aug. 5, Carter scored 21 points against the Lithuania National Team. He followed that up with a 16-point outing three days later, the 31-point output on Aug. 10 and a 19-point showing in State’s final contest overseas.
“I felt like it went pretty good,” Carter said of the trip. “We went 4-0 over there and it went better than I expected.
“I just expected it would be harder than that, but we had some good practices before we went over there. The practices prepared us for when we got there.”
MSU head coach Ben Howland labeled the opposition that Carter succeeded against as less than Southeastern Conference caliber. He said most equated to mid-major Division I schools, with the Kosovo team State defeated in its Italian finale as the most talented squad MSU saw.
Howland doesn’t believe that diminishes at all from what Carter was able to accomplish. Only five months ago, Carter was still pouring in buckets for Starkville High. In Italy, he showed he belonged in the SEC, and it wasn’t just Carter’s scoring ability that captured his head coach’s eye.
“What I’m most excited about for him, he was our leading defensive rebounder,” Howland said of Carter. “He had 20 defensive rebounds in the four games. He had more defensive rebounds than anybody on our team at (158 pounds). That’s impressive. He has a nose for the ball.”
Carter believes his rebounding ability is attributed, in part, to other teams overlooking him because of his lean frame.
“I don’t really get boxed out very much like the big guys underneath the goal,” Carter said. “It’s kind of easy for me to sneak up behind and get the rebound and stuff like that.”
Howland said he was incredibly impressed with all aspects of Carter’s game. Aside from the rebounding, Carter scored many of his 87 total points in the four games from behind the three-point line as he shot 46 percent from beyond the arc. Howland said many of those threes were big shots made down the stretch of games.
Carter’s knack for making the big shot underscores his maturity Howland says.
“He’s got great strength, great feel for the game, great presence and he never gets rattled,” Howland said of Carter. “The other coaches we were playing against were like, ‘Wow, he’s very good. I like him. He doesn’t get rattled.’
“He really was outstanding on this trip.”
Even with a successful debut behind him, Carter admits he still has work to do. He’d like to add 10 or 15 more pounds to his 6-foot-4 body.
“That’s probably my biggest problem right now is size and strength,” Carter said. “Me and (director of basketball performance David Deets) are putting a lot of time in trying to get bigger and stronger.”
Howland says more strength will boost Carter’s ability to defend. That’s an area of Carter’s game that Howland indicates could still use some work.
As for the rest, it’s way too early to say Carter has mastered life as a Bulldog, but he couldn’t be off to a much better start. The pressure will mount once games start counting for real in November, but Carter believes his time in Italy will lay the foundation for a memorable freshman year here in his hometown.
“I think it’ll help,” Carter said of the trip to Italy. “I probably won’t be as nervous the first game of the season because I have a little experience now.”