ON A DELAWARE 87ers team that boasts a published author, an NBA first-round pick, a brother of an NBA first-round pick and a former 6-10 high school phenom, 5-6 Aquille Carr's story rises above all the others.
The 20-year-old Baltimore native has turned down a scholarship from Seton Hall University and offers to play pro ball in Italy and China, and switched high schools last year as a senior numerous times to get the chance to make it to the NBA.
The young man, who was raised on the mean streets of East Baltimore - "The best thing about East is getting out of there and staying in the gym," Carr says - already has cleared his first hurdle, making the roster of the NBA Development League's 87ers. Did we happen to mention that he was 5-6 and weighs 148 pounds soaking wet?
Before even stepping onto the court for his first NBADL game, in which he scored 13 points, Carr was already a sensation on YouTube, with videos putting his blazing speed, superb handle and range on his jump shot in full display. He was a Baltimore high school legend, joining the likes of other Baltimorean high school players Carmelo Anthony, the late Reggie Lewis, Muggsy Bogues, Sam Cassel, Rudy Gay and Kevin Durant.
He was so popular in Baltimore that when his Patterson High team played, tickets were in such demand that the school moved most of its home games to the bigger Morgan State University gym. Carr was nicknamed "Crimestopper" because, legend had it, so many people attended Patterson's games that the crime rate in Baltimore would go down.
Carr could have taken the euros and headed for Italy or the renminbi and balled in China. But at the urging of his agent, Johnny Taylor, Carr stayed home to hone his skills. Taylor didn't see how playing abroad would improve his client's game and highly recommended Carr take advantage of the development league.
Besides being on American soil for his two brothers, two sisters and 1-year-old daughter, there were other reasons.
"He'd be over there on his own," Taylor said, "and he wouldn't have the camaraderie of other guys around his same age."
Taylor and Carr had no idea how close he'd actually be to home. When the Sevens made Carr the 43rd player chosen in the 2013 NBDL draft, he was as close to home as he possibly could be.
"That was a blessing," Taylor said. "He wasn't expecting it; I wasn't expecting it."
Besides being small of stature, Carr is also the youngest player on the 87ers' roster. He's 8 months younger than 6-10 Norvel Pelle, who like Carr, has not played a minute in college.
His basketball progression now will be monitored by Sevens head coach Rod Baker.
"As much as humbling, it needs to be an enlightening experience, because this is a different world for him," said Baker, a 1970 Roman Catholic graduate. "And it's our job to make it a different world for him. He has greater aspirations than this, but he has to understand that this is a very necessary process."
But as Baker tells his players, "What got you here won't get you there [to the NBA]. It's not just him, it's every player here. You have to develop your skills."
Carr isn't shying away from coaching.
"I'm learning right now to be coachable, learning from my mistakes, listening to my coaches and getting to it, like the right way to play pro basketball," he said.
That process has begun. After playing more than 26 minutes in his debut, his playing time dropped the next three games. He jacked up a team-high 13 shots in the opener, with six turnovers. In those first three games, he shot only 11-for-36 (30.6 percent). But his turnovers decreased.
In 10 games, Carr is averaging 10.7 points while playing 14.0 minutes. In a win over Canton on Dec. 8, Carr played 13 minutes, shot 5-for-7 from the field, with four assists, a steal and 13 points. But there were the three turnovers. In the following game, during a 19-minute run, he scored 22 points and turned over the ball only once.
"It's simple mistakes," Carr said, "like dribbling into the corner, where I'm never supposed to belong. Like on defense, getting back and boxing out bigger guys. I never had to do that [in high school]. But now that I'm in the pro leagues, I gotta get down and box out."
"His willingness to evolve into what we want will make everything fine," Baker said. "Anything that hasn't been positive is only because he doesn't understand. There's nothing negative about him. He's not defiant in any way. If anything, he's the exact opposite. He wants to learn, he wants to figure this out and he needs our help to do it."
Carr's talent is undeniable.
"He's going to have some [downs], but it will be his ability to bounce back from that . . . he'll be fine," Baker said.
"When the lights come on, he's pretty special."
As practice ended and players dispersed, Baker motioned to Carr to join him in the bleachers of the Sevens' practice facility at Delaware Tech. The two of them talked, as the education of Aquille Carr, protege, is just beginning.