Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Derrick Caracter on Saturday was academically cleared to play at UTEP and the 6-foot-9, 275-pound Fanwood, N.J. native will suit up Sunday when the undefeated Miners (5-0) face New Mexico State.
“He made it,” UTEP coach Tony Barbee wrote by text.
Barbee had previously said if Caracter’s grades were certified, “I expect him to have a big role.”
“He’ll bring a tremendous inside presence to our team to go along with Arnett Moultrie, Jeremy Williams, Claude Britten and Wayne Portalatin. We’re big already and I think we’ve got a very productive front line. We’re athletic and long and all those attributes get better when you add Derrick to that mix.”
Caracter transferred to UTEP after Louisville coach Rick Pitino made it clear that he no longer wanted Caracter on the team.
Caracter hasn’t played college hoops since the 2007-08 season when he averaged 8.3 points and 4.5 rebounds. He arrived at UTEP weighing “well over” 300 pounds, but has worked hard to get back into shape.
“He’s in the best shape he’s been in since he got here,” the coach said. “Last January he weighed well over 300 pounds and now he’s down to a great playing weight of about 270.”
Caracter was a storied, yet troubled high school star who spent time at three different high schools, Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick, Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Notre Dame Prep.
Barbee first recruited Caracter when he was an assistant at Memphis from 2000-06, but Caracter chose Louisville instead.
Caracter struggled at Louisville with weight and disciplinary issues before Pitino finally cut ties.
“We see a 6-9, 300 pound basketball player and we assume he’s a man,” Barbee said.
“But when he stepped foot in college basketball he was a 17-year-old kid and like any of us he made some bad decisions and ours just didn’t happen to be covered by every TV station and Internet site in the country,” Barbee said.
Now he has one more shot at UTEP.
“Whether he looks at it as a last chance or second chance or whatever chance it is, he’s taken advantage of whatever chance he has left to be effective,” Barbee said.
He has the remainder of this season and one year of eligibility left and Barbee said there is still time for Caracter to reestablish himself as the premier player he once was in high school.
“There’s no denying his second and third jump, his skill level to be able to finish with his left or right hand as efficiently around the rim,” the coach said.
“I know how good of an interior player he was but what’s surprised me I didn’t know that he could shoot the ball from the perimeter like he does.
“He’s got the talent to reclaim his reputation as the talented basketball player he was early on in his career.”
(PHoto courtesy UTEP Athletics)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.