Photo courtesy of Visions by Jeff/Jeffrey Armstrong
By David Cordova
Penn State is a renowned university that has long been famous for their nationally-recognized football program for decades under their legendary coach, the late Joe Paterno. But their men’s basketball program has also had some good years as well.
The furthest the program has ever gone in the NCAA Tournament was the Final Four in 1954. And their last appearance in the Big Dance was in 2011, where they were eliminated by in-state foes, Temple.
But this season, the Nittany Lions are off to a fast start, going 5-0 with wins over programs such as Columbia, Fairleigh Dickinson and another in-state foe in Pittsburgh, which they beat by a thirty-one point margin, 85-54, at the Legends Classic last night in Brooklyn, New York.
One of the keys to the Nittany Lions’ spectacular play is Tony Carr. The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard is a player that has excellent court vision at his size and sets up teammates with good passes. He also displays a good jumper and finds ways to get to the basket.
What motivates him every time he goes out on the floor, you may ask? “Just my family. They’re pretty much who I play for. My father taught me everything I know about the game of basketball and I just want to repay him and show him that all of the hard work we put in has paid off.”
Carr hails from Philadelphia, where he is one of the top players to come out of the city. When asked what it’s like being from the City of Brotherly Love, he replied, “It’s great being from Philly, having a Philly chip on your shoulder, playing in those Philly atmosphere kind of games.”
In high school, he had a great impact on the city, as he helped Roman Catholic win two Philadelphia Catholic League titles, as well as two PIAA 4A state championships in 2015 and 2016. He was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Pennyslvania in his senior year. He was also a four-star recruit in the Class of 2016 and ranked 50th in the country by ESPN.
In August 2015, Carr made headlines by staying in-state and committing to Penn State, making him the highest-rated recruit to play for the Nittany Lions since 2007. Adding more interest to that, is the fact that both of his classmates at Roman Catholic, Lamar Stevens and Nazeer Bostick, are now sophomores at Penn State, as well. Another Penn State player, Shep Garner, who is a junior, is a 2014 graduate of Roman Catholic.
It’s amazing that the Nittany Lions have four players from one high school on their roster. When asked about that, Carr replied, “It means everything, that’s kind of why we chose to go here, just so that we could come here and do something special.”
On this year’s Nittany Lions team, there are at least six players from the Philadelphia area, which shows that a program can be successful, when you keep players from the local area in state.
“We wanted to win with talent, and we got lucky when D.J. Newbill decided to commit to us and then Shep Garner. The fact that three best friends wanted to play together, that kind of helped us and then we see them competing out there with Mike Watkins, there’s a bond there, there’s a connection there,” says Penn State head coach Pat Chambers, “You always worry about cliques, though, it’s important that they hang out with everybody, from John [Harrar] to Trent [Buttrick] to Jamari [Wheeler] to make sure that the camaraderie is there. Obviously, Philadelphia has a hotbed of talent, we got to make sure that we’re there and recruiting it hard.”
As a freshman, Carr had an outstanding season, averaging 13.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game for the Nittany Lions. Also, two of his best games came against Indiana during Big Ten conference play. On January 18th, he scored 24 points at home against the Hoosiers and on February 1st, on the road, he scored 23 points and handed out 14 assists.
When asked about his freshman year, Carr said, “I feel like I did well, the college game was new to me, so as the season went on, I made some great adjustments and finished well.”
So far in the early going, Penn State is undefeated and thriving, and so is Carr, averaging 19 points, 5.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. “We’re doing great, 5-0, undefeated, hopefully we can keep it going.” says Carr on the current season.
The mission now is for Penn State to continue to have a successful non-conference season and then parlay that into strong conference play in the Big Ten. This year, they plan on making it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years, and also the first time in Coach Chambers’ seven seasons at the school.
With Carr holding down the reins at the one, there is no doubt that Penn State can make things happen. “We just want to be the best team that we can be by the end of the season, and hopefully that leads us to the Tournament or something like that.”
And on his plans for the future? “I don’t know, man, I just go out there and play the game and let God handle everything.”
This is the season of change University Park, Pennsylvania. Hopefully, for Penn State and Tony Carr, everything goes into fruition. But right now, there is still a full season to play.
Highlights of Tony Carr:
Courtesy of Nittany Nation.
Courtesy of MJ LJ.
Courtesy of Shaprvision.
Courtesy of Big Ten Network.