Ross Carter used to be late for practice sometimes during the first weeks of Simon Gratz High’s basketball season.
“I finally asked him, ‘What’s up?'” Gratz coach Lynard Stewart said. “He told me he had to pick up his sisters and get them home before he could come to practice. That’s the kind of kid he was.”
Carter, a 2020 Gratz graduate who helped last season’s Bulldogs to the Class 6A city title, was shot and killed on Friday night, according to Stewart. Philadelphia Police said Monday that no arrests had been made in the shooting, which left another man wounded.
The coach said Carter was sitting on the front step of a friend’s house in the Nicetown section of North Philadelphia when he was shot several times.
“I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, this is just another 18-year-old shot in the street,’" Stewart said. “This was a good kid. His smile was amazing. His demeanor was amazing.”
Stewart said Ross' mother told him that Ross would be buried in his Gratz No. 33 jersey.
“That’s how much being part of this team meant to him,” Stewart said.
The 6-foot-5 Carter was a small forward who specialized in defense, rebounding, and spectacular dunks for Gratz, which went 24-6 last season.
The Bulldogs won the Philadelphia Public League Division A regular-season title with a 9-1 record. They lost to Math, Civics and Sciences in the Public League title game but defeated Philadelphia Catholic League power Roman Catholic in the Class 6A city title game.
Gratz’s season ended March 11 with a dramatic 63-62 loss to Chester, which made a three-pointer at the buzzer, in the second round of the PIAA Class 6A state tournament.
“He was such a key player for us,” Stewart said of Carter, who averaged 10.3 points. “I could see it early in the year. When he started to get going for us, I said, ‘Oh, we’re going to be a problem for everybody.’”
Stewart hoped to arrange for Carter to attend a junior college in the Midwest after graduation, but those plans were scuttled by the coronavirus outbreak.
“Me and his AAU coach, we were going to go to his house Saturday and try to start figuring out a way to get him going [on a college plan] and this happened,” Stewart said.
The coach said Carter’s attitude helped create a positive environment around the basketball team.
“He was a kid you couldn’t really get mad at because when he did something wrong, he knew it,” Stewart said. “He would be like, ‘Sorry,’ and give you the biggest smile. He never had a bad attitude.”
Stewart said Carter found a way to resolve his tardiness to those early-season practices.
“I told him, ‘If you have to pick up your sisters, just bring them here,’” Stewart said. “That’s what he did. He brought them here and they would have a great time, doing their homework while he was at practice.”