WEST LAFAYETTE -- A recent phone call with family revealed something to Sterling Carter. The fifth-year senior guard wasn’t himself.
“They told me I didn’t look like I wanted to be out there,” said Carter after Purdue’s 70-64 win over Nebraska. “I didn’t have that mentality I normally had when I played back in Seattle. I looked at myself in the mirror and found myself.”
The changes began in Purdue’s loss at Minnesota. When coach Matt Painter searched the bench for an answer to spark a second-half comeback, he gave a nod to the seldom-used guard.
Carter, the first-year Boilermaker, was a star at Seattle and was on pace to become the program’s all-time leading scorer before his transfer. At Purdue, he’s a role player off the bench. Finally, Carter committed himself to a role.
“I just brought more energy,” Carter said. “Playing with these guys is a great opportunity. I had to realize that and get back to my old ways.”
Against the Golden Gophers, Carter contributed with 10 points in 21 minutes while boosting the rest of the lineup. He topped that performance in Sunday’s win over the Cornhuskers, posting eight points and pulling down a game-high seven rebounds.
That’s what energized play will do for a 6-foot guard.
“I thought Sterling Carter was huge,” Painter said. “He once again was really good defensively and he got some long rebounds for us. He got seven defensive rebounds, which was probably the difference in the game.”
Painter genuinely believes in Carter’s potential, but the difficult duty has been finding him minutes. Purdue’s regular rotation includes six guards, including two team staples in Terone Johnson and Ronnie Johnson. So how does Carter fit into the mix?
“It’s tough task,” Painter admitted. “But with that being said, he’s proven in the past couple games that we’re better with him in there than not. That’s what you want to do as a player, get a consistent string together and for your coach’s hand.”
In assessing Carter’s play, Painter said that the ‘across-the-board’ contributions were what spurred Sunday’s pivotal victory. From Carter’s perspective, it’s all what he had hoped would happen.
Carter came to Purdue hoping to reach the NCAA Tournament in his final year of eligibility, leaving behind his home, family and a successful career at Seattle. He sees the big-dance potential in this Boilermaker team, and feels the resolve is there.
“Guys are understanding that time is ticking,” Carter said. “If we want to be in the NCAA Tournament in March, we have to pick it up.”
The improved play of Purdue’s re-energized senior guard is an important start toward that goal.