Rejection and Redemption: The Phillip Carr Story
by Bryan Fonseca
Feb 28, 2017 | 20794 views | 0 0 comments | 610 610 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Today, Phillip Carr is one of the best basketball players in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, averaging over 17 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game as a junior at Morgan State University.

He’s been MEAC Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week on multiple occasions, and the conference-leading rebounder leads the league in double-doubles so far in 2016-17.

The 6-foot-7, 200-pound Brooklyn native has also been one of the MEAC leaders in field goal, three-point and free throw percentage during his second year in the conference.

So it’s hard to believe that this Preseason All-MEAC selection didn’t make his high school team until his senior year, when he averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds per game.

And it’s not like he didn’t try every year, Carr just never made the cut; not through his first three years at Transit Tech High School in East New York, and not even through three years of middle school.

He was cut six times before finally making the team in 12th grade.

“I was honestly bitter,” Carr admitted. “My freshman year I went into Transit Tech real confident that I was going to make the team even though I didn’t in all three years of junior high school.

“They tried to give me a chance and I just never made it,” he added. “I got familiar with the disappointment of it.”

Despite his letdowns, Carr never stopped playing. He attended any AAU tryout and basketball workout he could, and he’d stick around the teams through half the season, “because they always say some kids will fall off.”

Still, he never got a chance until his last go-round.

“To this day I feel like I made the team because I was the tallest kid in school, honest to God,” Carr said with a laugh. “I tried to transfer before my senior year to Boys and Girls because I worked out there over the summer. It was like everybody in every other school believed in me but the coach at Transit Tech.”

While in high school, Carr grew close with Tom “Tippy” McTernan, director and coach of Big Apple Sports.

McTernan met Carr in the fall of 2012 at the Sullivan Games, a high school exposure event conducted by PSAL, beginning a long relationship.

“I liked his talent, in addition he was mature and easy to speak with as a person,” McTernan said of a teenage Carr. “It was like he knew what he was at that exposure event for and would take full advantage of the opportunity.”

Carr was offered an invitation to train with McTernan, which included spots in the Unsigned Hype and Big Apple Senior Showcases.

“He was very excited at that prospect and kept asking when can we start. Over the next few years, we spent countless hours in the gym, most often at the Jamaica YMCA in Queens,” McTernan recollected. “He developed an excellent work ethic from the seed we planted, leaving me to attend other workouts around the city, even riding his bike from his Canarsie home to our Jamaica Y location.”

Carr subsequently went onto Mohawk Valley Community College, a Division III school in Utica, where he registered 8.4 points and 7.7 rebounds over 29 games (11 starts).

“It’s obviously no Brooklyn kid’s dream to go to a division-three junior college,” said Carr, laughing. “I kind of brushed it off, not in a disrespectful way, but realizing my skill level at the time it was probably my best fit.

I was getting recruited by [SUNY] Farmingdale for a while and visited two or three times,” he added. “Two weeks before I had to send the paperwork, coach Erik Smiles stopped calling me after he been calling me everyday. I found out he left the job and went to LIU Post.”

Although displeased, Carr made the best of his situation at Mohawk.

In one year at MVCC, Carr gained 15 pounds of muscle, going from 175 to 190 pounds. With a stop at Williston State College in North Dakota, he found himself in Baltimore, making the leap from a D-III JUCO to a D-I mid-major.

In 2015-16 Carr hit the ground running, and averaged 10.5 points and had team-bests in rebounds (6.9 per game) and blocks (35 total) over 31 games.

Now he’s completely reinvented himself as one of the MEAC’s elite, and it isn’t only that Carr got better, he also finally got the opportunity to prove himself.

“I don’t know, I can’t really explain it myself,” a humbled Carr said. “People say ‘damn Phil, you really came a long way.’ If you look at my films from JUCO and my film now, I didn’t do half of the stuff I’m doing. I was just rebounding, putting it back, catching it in the short corner and shoot it if I’m open.

“The game has never been more fun to me than it is now,” he continued. “Leading the conference in double-doubles, averaging close to 20 points per game, it gives you fuel to the fire. You want to keep going.”

Carr is especially proud of his current team, which leads the country in defensive three-point percentage and is among the nation’s leaders in offensive rebounding, where Carr leads the MEAC.

His message is simple: never give up.

“A lot of people would’ve quit,” Carr said. “A call from Glen Palmer to come workout, and that was my one chance. And that’s all I ever had, one chance.”

Coming up for Carr and the Bears are the MEAC Playoffs, which run from March 6 to March 10. The Bears are looking to reach the NCAA Tourney for the third time ever as a D-I school, and the first since going in 2009 and 2010.
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