UK Men's Basketball

The big man the fans are waiting for

Someone identifying himself as "Chris from Bowling Green" leaves a voice mail message every few weeks. Invariably, his thoughts on Kentucky basketball concentrate on one player:

Jared Carter.

Chris sees Carter as the Moses that will lead the Cats to the Promised Land. "The big ole boy," as Chris calls Carter, can dominate.

After watching pickup games recently, Chris left his impressions on a voice- mail message. "Carter shut him down over and over and over again," Chris said of Carter playing against Patrick Patterson. "Of course, Carter shut down everybody."

In Chris's eyes, Carter also did well offensively. "He scored at will when he was in there," Chris said. "That's our best hope this year, I think."

So, Chris always wants to know: When will UK realize its good fortune and put it to full use?

Judging by e-mail and talk radio, Chris isn't alone. Other UK fans see a 7-foot-2 player and wonder why he doesn't make more of an impact. At public pickup games this fall, anticipation rose each time Carter got the ball.

Has a fairly nondescript UK player ever generated so much fan interest?

"I guess it's because I went to high school here in Kentucky," Carter said of his celebrity. "I'm a Kentucky boy."

Carter, who has scored only 30 points and grabbed 39 rebounds in his injury-filled college career, hopes to be much more productive this season.

"I've just been concentrating on working hard," he said. "Just come in and show what I'm made of."

What is Carter made of? That's a key question.

"I'm not a soft kid or anything," he said.

UK Coach Billy Gillispie wants to see a more aggressive Carter. The coach wants to see Carter act rather than react, impose his will rather than stand idly by.

"He's finally starting to (show) the hunger he needs to play with to be what he can be," said Gillispie, who likened Carter to where Perry Stevenson was a year ago.

In 2007-08, Stevenson gained confidence, going from a player the opponents preyed upon to a hold-his-own contributor. "Hopefully Jared can do that at an even earlier stage of the season," Gillispie said.

Chris from Bowling Green notices each time Carter's name is not mentioned in a discussion about Kentucky's front court. Chris asked that a "bug" be put in the coach's ear.

But Gillispie is well aware of Carter and the potential a 7-2 player brings.

"I keep waiting on it," Gillispie said before adding, "I'd be very surprised if he doesn't really impact our team."

Aside from the two shoulder injuries that gutted Carter's career, Gillispie blamed himself for not getting more out of the player from Scott County. The UK coach said he's tried to make Carter one type of player instead of using Carter as he is.

"I try to put a square peg in a round hole," Gillispie said. "I've done a real good job of trying to make him more competitive. But I don't think I've done a very good job of giving him the best chance for success."

Carter cited Big Blue Madness as an inspiration for a more aggressive attitude. UK's annual basketball carnival "sparked my interest a little bit," he said.

No doubt, Kentucky welcomes a Carter who's intent on contributing in this, his senior season.

If Carter plays well enough, he could persuade UK to seek his eligibility for the 2009-10 season. He could qualify for a medical redshirt dating to the 2006-07 season he largely missed because of two shoulder surgeries.

A medical redshirt request must come after a player completes his eligibility.

When asked if he'd want a fifth season, Carter was, alas, non-committal.

"I don't know," he said. "I'm not going to worry about next year at all. Right now, I want to worry about this year."