Possibly the most impressive single-game performance of the entire tournament belonged to Notre Dames Russell Carter
. Besides the fact that it came in the Championship game and was the dominant reason why his team won the PIT, it did a great job demonstrating just how effectively his skill-set can translate over to a hypothetical role in the NBA.
Carter made a great living tonight from mid-range and beyond the arc. He was absolutely phenomenal catching and shooting coming off screens, and also was a potent weapon spotting up off the dribble any time the defense gave him even an inch of daylight. He has a super quick release, terrific elevation on his jumper, effortless mechanics, and outstanding instincts for how to move off the ball. Its quite clear from watching him here that the transition to the NBA 3-point line will not be very difficult at all for him, and that the inch or two he might lack in prototypical size for his position can be neutralized by the way he gets his shot off. Furthermore, he also possesses a fairly effective mid-range game pulling up off the bounce after a short dribble or two to create space for himself, sometimes adding in a little fade-away action with nice body control for good measure.
More than just a one-dimensional shooter, though, Carter did a terrific job showing off his excellent defense and passing ability. Built like an NFL fullback with excellent quickness and plenty of smarts, Carter is a very willing and able perimeter defender. He puts lots of pride into this part of his game, getting in his matchups chest and being extremely physical, staying in front of his man nicely and being very active getting in the passing lanes and coming up for steals.
This got him in transition on a number of occasions during this game, where he showed awesome strength finishing with contact around the basket for a layup or emphatic dunk, and also a high skill level and nice decision making skills pulling up off the dribble from mid-range for a sweet looking jumper.
Despite being seemingly unable to do any wrong tonight no matter what he did, Carter did not force the issue even one bit, doing an admirable job creating shots for his teammates, as evidenced by his 7 assists. Even though they are somewhat similar players and there could have been some concern that their skill-set would overlap with one another, Carter and DeAngelo Alexander
showed great chemistry throughout the tournament and again made some incredibly unselfish passes to each other all game long. Carter found Alexander beautifully in transition on two separate occasions, and also had a terrific drop-off to a streaking Anthony Tolliver
on another occasion. Its obvious from watching him play on the court and seeing how he handled himself off it that the Notre Dame senior is a very intelligent player and person. He really seems to enjoy playing basketball, having a permanent smile on his face for every minute hes on the court. Today, though, he gave the NBA executives that were still in attendance (like Minnesota TWolves GM Kevin McHale
for example) plenty to smile about too for staying in Virginia rather than running off to attend the Hoop Summit JUCO all-star game in Memphis.
In terms of weaknesses, Carter has two glaring ones, one that can be corrected and one that probably cant. The first would be his ball-handling skills. Against average competition like he faced here at PIT, Carter can create his own shot only semi-effectively, much preferring to have a point guard like DaShaun Wood
next to him to can make him solely a finisher. His left hand is especially poor, being unable to dribble or finish without being a complete liability. The second would be his size, which is not ideal at 6-4. As mentioned already, though, he does make up for this to a certain extent with his strength, athleticism, and the quickness in which he can get his shot off, along with his high release point.
Carter was, to us, the best NBA draft prospect here, and has moved firmly into the second round of the draft on our board thanks to his outstanding performance here. He will still need to do it all over again at the pre-draft camp in Orlando to guarantee getting drafted, but we have very little doubt in our mind now that he has what it takes to be an effective NBA rotation player.