By Sam Draut–
The adjustment to the college lifestyle is tough for any freshman. Add 2,000 miles, a backcourt filled with upperclassmen and a new system to learn, it can be downright difficult.
Sophomore Arica Carter went through some up and downs last season and made some nearly unpreventable freshman mistakes, but through all of it, now finds herself as one of only four returners from last year’s team that went 27-7 and reached the Sweet 16.
The 5-foot-8 point guard flashed moments of promise throughout the year.
In the season opener against IUPUI, Carter scored five points and tallied six assists.
Two weeks later, she set a career high with eight points against Iowa and added four rebounds and three assists.
When Louisville fell behind Pittsburgh after a sluggish start, Carter scored six points in the second half to help lift the Cardinals to a comeback victory.
In her first NCAA tournament game, the Los Angeles, California native contributed with six points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.
But the glimpses of potential were paired with struggles.
Carter struggled shooting, finishing the season nine of 33 from the field for 27.3 percent and had a negative assist to turnover ratio.
Playing in 16 games last season and averaging 15.6 minutes per contest, Carter was able to get a feel for the college game and understand what she needed to improve upon.
“Last year was really tough because Coach Walz pushed me and knew I could be a better player, and I think it worked,” Carter said. “This year I’ve transformed and want to be a great leader of my teammates and help the freshmen and help them have success. And I’ve been shooting the ball a lot better.”
Instead of being disappointed with her sporadic freshman campaign, Carter went into the offseason focused on developing a consistent jump shot and her on floor leadership.
“Off season I really worked on my shot. Making players have to play me because when they have to play me then I can create for my team like I like to do,” Carter said. “Also, I worked on talking. In the gym even by myself I’m screaming whatever I’m doing so I get used to communicating easily on the court.”
After spending a year as the young newcomer with a backcourt apprenticeship with Jude Schimmel and Bria Smith, Carter becomes the leader of a backcourt with five new faces.
“It’s different because now I’m the leader showing the other players, but it’s not that hard. Basketball is not that hard. It’s not that the game has changed, you just have to be smarter,” Carter said. “I learned through my freshmen year what to do and not to do, what’s good for the team by focusing on the team, how to help the team. And I think I’m going to do a pretty good job this year.”
So a year away from adjusting to college basketball, Carter now adjusts to a new group of backcourt teammates. She believes the group is coming together well and thinks the unit can handle and break any pressure they might see during the year.
At times it might have seemed as if head coach Jeff Walz was hard on Carter, but along with always providing coachable moments, Walz was quick to praise his sophomore point guard.
“Arica Carter has made significant improvement, and I’m excited for her,” Walz said.
For Carter, the adjustment period can end, and the excitement can begin.