Following an 8-point, 11-rebound performance against the Connecticut Huskies on Tuesday, Robert Carter Jr. subtly dropped a line referencing his future – something Maryland has thought a great deal about – but the national contingent hasn't.
"Hopefully I have many more opportunities to play [at Madison Square Garden] in the future," Carter said when asked about playing on the famous court he grew up watching on television.
The transfer junior didn't seem like he was envisioning his return to the Big Apple wearing a Terrapins uniform. He may still sport Under Armour gear under his NBA jersey though.
Carter is still flying under the radar when it comes to 2016 mock drafts. DraftExpress lists Diamond Stone, Melo Trimble and Jake Layman as No. 17, No. 21 and No. 32 in its latest projection, but has no mention of Carter. If he keeps playing the way he has so far in 2015, that'll start to change.
Carter does nothing flashy. He doesn't turn defenders side-ways with a crossover like Melo Trimble. He doesn't hit step-back jumpers like Rasheed Sulaimon. His size is fine for college play, but to an NBA scout he doesn't have incredible length like Jake Layman, or an overwhelming stature like Diamond Stone.
He's simply well-rounded, and that's why he doesn't get the attention he deserves.
But the guy who might be the fifth-most looked-upon Terrapins' draft pick has his fundamentals down, and has been the team's most consistent and efficient player.
Maryland has a very spread-out offensive scheme, which as opposed to last season's nightly Dez Wells and Trimble show, now involves six players averaging between 6 and 9 field goal attempts. Carter sits second on that list – behind Melo Trimble – and shoots with the highest efficiency by a considerable margin. This is no small accomplishment either, as Maryland holds the ninth-highest adjusted offensive rating per KenPom.
It's typical for forwards and centers to generate higher shooting numbers due to their obvious height advantage, and typical shorter average shot distance, but what Carter is doing is incredible. His 62.9 percent shooting from the field is enough to gain attention on its own, but when you look further it's much more impressive.
Carter has seemingly made it a mission to prove he's capable of stretching the floor as a threat from deep. He hasn't done that just yet, hitting just 5 of his 15 3-point attempts, good for 33.3 percent. Where numbers suggest he should be spending more time is around the rim.
The 6'9 big man has incredible finesse floating hook shots, short jumpers and mid-range shots through the net at a 72.2 percent rate on a not so small 49-attempt sample size.
His rebounding has been crucial as well, a defining strength that makes it hard for coach Mark Turgeon to keep him off the floor. He's hauling boards in at the highest rate on the team, 4.4 percent more rapidly than his big-man counterpart Stone.
Carter's 7.1 rebounds per game rarely fluctuates more than two rebounds in either direction, and paired with his consistent shooting it's surprising he hasn't notched a double-double this season. The public's obsession with two-digit stats can be misleading, however, given how close he's been. He's fallen short by two rebounds or less on four occasions, and played 23 minutes or less in two of those situations. In Tuesday night's game at the Garden, he found a new way to miss the achievement, falling just a bucket short, but again he played just 22 minutes.
The telling number is in the win shares. The statistIc aims to measure an estimate as to how many wins a player contributes to. Carter leads Maryland at .240 per 48 minutes, nearly two and a half times the league average.
Carter is exceeding all expectations and has the skill-set and consistency to move on and become a factor at the next level. This trip to the Mecca of hoops was unlikely to be his last.