KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A steal, a layup and a smile were the fitting components attached to the final two points of DeForest Carter’s remarkable collegiate career that ended March 21 with an appearance in the NABC-NAIA Men’s Basketball All-Star Game at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
Carter, whose affable personality carries over to the court regardless of the score, sported a wide grin while he made a solo trip from midcourt to the basket for the easy, uncontested hoop, which turned out to be his only points.
Instead of shooting, Carter displayed a generous amount of generosity, as the record-breaking Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University senior point guard opted to dole out first-class passes to his Division II All-Star teammates.
The result was a game-high seven assists for Carter, whose team fell to the Division I All-Stars, 100-96, in a basketball-rich structure that hosted several NCAA Final Fours from the 1940s to 1960s.
The game culminated a whirlwind week for Carter, whose playing career with Embry-Riddle ended five days earlier with a loss in the NAIA Division II national semifinals in the southern part of Missouri. He went back to Florida and returned to the Show-Me State the day before the all-star game.
“I felt it was another opportunity to go and represent my Tribe and represent my school and represent my family,” said Carter, whose mother, Myra Jumper, and stepfather, Robert Hill, watched his final game from section 11, directly across the court from the Division II all-stars bench.
Through Carter’s four-year career at Embry-Riddle – a span of 135 games – Jumper only missed attending a couple games during her son’s freshman season.
“I can’t play without seeing her face or talking to her at least once,” said Carter, who already knows how he will handle games if he pursues a professional career, perhaps in another country. “That’s when FaceTime comes in handy. Right before the game, it’d be like, ‘Love you mom, see ya.’ Then I’m ready to go.”
Jumper, Hill and the 400 or so fans who remained in the nearly 10,000-seat arena after a marathon day of quarterfinals in the Division I tournament witnessed some of the magic that belongs to Embry-Riddle’s all-time leader in assists and steals.
Before the game’s first five minutes elapsed, Carter made two nifty assists. First, he drove the lane while battling a defender and appeared ready for a layup attempt only to make a mid-air pass to a wide-open Timothy Mitchell, of Southeastern University, for an uncontested dunk. A similar scenario occurred moments later, but this time Carter delivered a behind-the-back, over-the-shoulder, no-look gem to Midland University’s Marcus Franklin for another dunk.
“We got reminded tonight how good he is and how much he makes the game look so easy,” said Embry-Riddle coach Steve Ridder, who watched from the stands with his assistant coach Chad Keller.
Carter had to get used to not having his usual pass recipient on the floor, 6-foot-8 Embry-Riddle teammate Cesar Pastrana.
“I’m missing my best and favorite target ever,” Carter said. “Every time I jumped and looked, I had flashbacks, ‘Oh that’s not Cesar.’ It was still great though. The players I played with were awesome.”
Carter didn’t attempt a shot in the first half, which led to good-natured ribbing from the sidelines.
“When he came to our corner, we said, ‘You think we flew out here all this way not to see you take a shot?’” said Ridder, whose program will join the NCAA Division II ranks starting next season. “Tonight, coach Keller and I decided to be here because DeForest has done everything we’ve asked him to do, and he’s turned out to be a great human being, a great young man. Tonight is kind of our last NAIA event. We wanted to be here for him and just celebrate the great career he’s had, but more importantly celebrate the man he’s turned into. He’s going to be missed.”
But Carter might not have to be missed for too long. Ridder says there’s an invitation for Carter to be a student-assistant coach in the 2015-16 season as Carter finishes his degree in interdisciplinary studies.
“That might (happen) this fall,” Carter said. “I’m going to go to class and help out the team as they’re transitioning (to NCAA) and still try to be part of the team and helping them develop players. I just want to help any way I can and give back.”
Carter, who grew up on the Big Cypress Reservation before he moved to Orlando with his family when he was about 10, roomed with Demetrius Perkins, one of two all-stars from College of Idaho.
“It’s awesome to see that we could be all-stars from different places; me having the city and all that around me, and them having Idaho. I don’t really know what’s in Idaho,” Carter said.
Earlier in the day, Carter and the all-stars watched the NAIA’s 3-point and dunk contests.
“The dunk contest, I don’t have that many tricks, but get me on a good day, I’ll make 20 3’s in a row if you need me to,” he said, with a smile of course.