First, the news:
Xavier transfer Jason Carter is heading back to Ohio University, he told @stadium. Played his first few seasons at Ohio U. before spending the last two for the Musketeers. Significant pickup for Jeff Boals and the staff.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) April 2, 2021
After two years at Xavier, Jason Carter is heading back to Ohio. He will go down in Xavier history - at least in my mind - as a guy who never quite got the recognition he deserved for what he brought to the team.
I know I was on board the Jason Carter train long after most passengers had disembarked, so I think it's fair to begin by recognizing that he had meaningful flaws. Perhaps most notably of these was his offensive efficiency. He seemed to have a knack for working his way almost into the right position, only to have the actual finish elude him by a half step. With Tyrique Jones and Zach Freemantle combining to make about 7 in 10 of their shots at the rim while Carter was at Xavier, his 56.9% mark from that range was cast in stark, unflattering relief.
He had similar troubles farther from the rim, never quite finding the range at Xavier that had been a weapon for him at OU. This most recent season, everything he tossed up - even free throws - seemed to be just hair short, further diminishing his ability to make an impact.
Despite that, he found a way to make himself useful to the extent that Travis Steele - to the consternation of many hot take artists on Twitter - trusted him with 28 minutes a game in his time at Xavier.
Much of that was down to his ability to be the glue of the team. On his day, he could be assigned to guard 3-5 and be trusted in switches against all but the quickest guards. He didn't have the flashiest rebounding numbers, but he routinely carved out his section of real estate on both ends to help X on the glass. He wasn't Mt. Mutombo, but he turned away his share of shots.
His stat line rebukes some of the complaints about him. It's hard to say the guy who was 10th on the team in usage rate was taking too many shots. He wasn't lighting the world on fire offensively, but his 98.2 ORtg certainly wasn't dragging the team backwards. His DRtg was solidly in the middle of the team, and only Paul Scruggs and Zach Freemantle had more defensive win shares.
In many ways, I think he served as a security blanket in Travis Steele's first two years for Xavier. He could be trusted to run out there for half an hour a game and not make big mistakes, execute the system on both ends, and facilitate the team's game plan. We found out late this most recent season that he was battling lower leg problems that kept him out of practice for almost all of January and February. He still answered the bell every time the coach pencilled him into the lineup.
As far as glue goes, the difference between a valuable bonding agent and a puddle of gross goop is the presence of things to hold together. Perhaps that was the defining flaw of Carter's tenure at Xavier, as his skill set in being mortar was undermined by the demand for more stones.
Now he is heading back to Ohio. Many among the Xavier faithful, at least on Twitter, won't be sorry to see him go. I don't think that's entirely fair to Jason in terms of what he produced in his time at Xavier and the suboptimal circumstances in which he was asked to deliver it. I wish him all the success in the world as a Bobcat.