Jason Carter struggled at times last season. It’s hard to know what was in the young man’s mind when he transferred to Xavier, but the 3/1/0 he posted against Villanova or no points and two turnovers in just 15 minutes against St. John’s probably wasn’t it. Carter finished with 6.9/4.9/1.4 on 39% shooting. It wasn’t a season he likely wants to remember in great detail.
Through five games this year, the exact opposite is true. With Xavier limited to eight players, with Zach Freemantle in constant foul trouble, and with Xavier’s rotation comprised of a lot of youth in the guard spots, Carter has been excellent. This season Jason is averaging 8.2/10.6/1.4 on 44% shooting and has been vital in Xavier’s season opening five game winning streak.
What has changed for the senior? It isn’t his finishing at the rim, which has dipped to 53%. There has been a 10% increase in how many of his shots he is taking at the rim, however. This has come largely from the mid range where he is now only taking 16% of his shots but is knocking down a cool 60%. In short, Carter is shooting more from in close and shooting better from the area around the paint.
He’s also rebounding like a man possessed. Not since the freshman season where he blew onto the scene at Ohio has Carter equaled the 22.7% rate with which he is grabbing defensive rebounds now. He’s never approached his current 13.5% rate on the offensive glass. To watch Jason grab boards is to see a stylistic difference from his teammates. Carter is generally content to seek out good position and then seal that position off rather than engage in the more spectacular leaping contests at the rim. This means that when the ball comes his way he’s frequently the only one in position to corral it. (Bryan Griffin is also excellent at this.)
Better shooting and rebounding account for a lot of Carter’s improvement, but it’s a facet of his game that hasn’t improved that much that makes him so important right now. Last season Carter had an aberrant 21% turnover rate last season. Prior to that he’d never ventured above 14%. This season Jason has wrestled his turnover rate back down to usual 12.4%. On a team that has, at times, demonstrated no real understanding of who they were supposed to throw the ball to, a steady hand at the helm has been helpful. Carter almost never looks panicked or alarmed when on the ball. That’s incredibly useful.
Jason Carter came to Xavier with great expectations. His first season both he and the team struggled. Now settled in, he’s a large part of why this year’s team has torn off to a 5-0 start. If he keeps producing at this level, Xavier is a far better team than their preseason projections suggested.