There comes a time when you are discussing what a player will do on the basketball court when you can no longer use the word potential. For Warren Carter, that time is now. No longer can you look at the lean forward from Texas and say, “If he can harness this potential, he could become a great player for Illinois.” Now, you have to look at Warren for what he has brought to the floor in his three years at Illinois as a backup power forward, and hope his gradual improvement process continues through his senior season.
Just to get this out of the way, Warren Carter would be better off had he actually redshirted his freshman season instead of playing just under four minutes per game in the seventeen games he actually stepped foot on the court. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter any more. He has played three seasons in the Illinois system. So barring a Chris Gandy-like improvement, Carter will give the Illini what he has given in the past.
The good news for Carter is that the starting power forward spot is his to win. The only other power forward on the Illinois roster is true freshman Richard Semrau, so at this point you would be hard pressed to say that Warren is not the leader out of the gate for the starting four spot. Outside of Semrau, Carter will also be fighting with Brian Randle for playing time when the Illini play three guards, which will be a common occurrence (though most likely not as common as Illinois fans have seen in the three previous years of the Weber regime due to a lack of guards).
There are things about Warren Carter’s game that obviously frustrated Bruce Weber and the Illini coaching staff last season. To say that Warren had a short leash would be an understatement. Warren would often times miss offensive and defensive assignments, causing him to immediately get pulled from the game.
The one thing that Warren did better than the majority of his teammates last season was understand how to beat a zone. As has been the standard for what seems like the last six years, the Illini struggled to score against the zone last season. But, Warren just instinctively knew where the soft spot in the zone was going to be (the short corner or the elbow) and would set up shop there looking for a pass so he could take the open shot.
Will Warren Carter be Illinois’ starting power forward next season?
The answer to this question is entirely dependent on Warren himself. Will Warren make the right reads in the motion offense? Will Warren’s defense improve to a level where it is, well, average?
If the answers to both of these questions is “yes”, Warren should be Illinois’ power forward for the 2005-2006 season.
If the answer to either of these questions is “no”, Warren will most likely find himself in the familiar position sitting next to the coaching staff when the games start while someone else is being announced by Jim Sheppard before games.
How can Warren improve offensively?
In his three seasons at Illinois, Warren has not seen a shot that he won’t take. Be it a covered, a wide open, or a partially covered shot, Warren will take it. Shyness is not one of the qualities of his offensive game. Sure, in his first two seasons he was playing meaningless minutes, and he shot anytime Krush chanted “Warren-Carter!” (which was every second he was in the game), so it was sort of fun to see. Last year, not so much.
To put things in perspective Warren’s Usage Rate (the amount of possessions that a player uses per 40 minutes) was 18.35 last season, a very high number for someone that is neither an offensive specialist, or the team’s go to player. Last year, only one Illinois player had a higher Usage Rate than Warren, Dee Brown.
For Warren to improve offensively, he needs to realize two things: (1) not every shot that is available needs to be taken, aka pass the ball more! and (2) the correct positioning on the court. Warren is a very talented offensive player, and has a good face up game for a power forward. His size does not allow him to be an effective back to the basket player, but his quickness will allow him to exploit other power forwards on the outside.
Where does Warren fit in the Illinois rotation?
Warren has a chance to be the starter at power forward, but he also has the chance to slip all the way down to becoming Illinois’ third power forward. Expect Warren to be starting for Illinois at the four spot when the season starts, but by the time Big Ten play rolls around, I believe he will be supplanted in the starting lineup by Richard Semrau.
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