Early in a game against Forest Park High, Carr felt the Foresters were singling him out for abuse — a problem he typically faces. He pleaded with the refs. He raised his arms in protest. And he searched out Matthews in the stands, shrugging pointedly as if to say, "What's wrong with these people?"
He dropped 27 points that game aginst eventual winner North Point High. John Thompson, the basketball legend who coached the likes of Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson at Georgetown University, was on hand. He hugged Carr after the game. The legend grew.
After the season, The Crime Stopper — the criminals of East Baltimore, it is said, shut down operations long enough to see him play; police say that's hard to quantify — erupted beyond his usual beat. In April, he led the U.S team to a gold medal at the Junior International Tournament in Italy, averaging 40 points and winning tournament MVP honors. In August, he was named co-MVP at the Boost Mobile Elite 24 in Los Angeles, a tournament for the nation's best two dozen high school players as chosen by ESPN.
Even last summer's NBA lockout raised his profile. During the work stoppage, many NBA stars joined high-level amateur leagues around the country to stay sharp, a phenomenon that played out in Baltimore, where Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks, John Wall of the Washington Wizards and LeBron James of the Miami Heat, among other top pros, tested their talents in the "Melo League," a long-standing summer circuit at the "Melo Center."
They wanted Carr to play. Those who saw the games say The Crime Stopper fit right in, driving to the hoop against giants like DeMarcus Cousins, the Sacramento Kings' 6-foot-11, 270-pound center, while dishing the ball to teammates in the mold of a floor general.
One witness, Darrick Oliver, a longtime area coach who is now on the Patterson staff, was not surprised to see Carr do well. "I've seen him play at every level, on the playground and against the pros," says Oliver, who has worked with the likes of Juan Dixon and Anthony. "Upward or downward, he always adjusts his game."
Was Carr intimidated? "Why would I be?" he asks, surprised at the question. "They're regular. They have weaknesses, just like me."
It was last month that Carr made his verbal commitment to Divison I Seton Hall. What drew him was the coach, Kevin Willard, a former point guard who gives his point guards a lot of freedom. Carr says that however long he's at Seton Hall, he'll put the program on the Big East map.
Scouts are of two minds as to how he'll perform at that level, where the average Syracuse, Georgetown and UConn player will dwarf those he has been facing, and be much quicker.
Some say the change will help him. Where Carr attacks the basket more or less solo, the thinking goes, the coach of a big-time program, such as Willard, will likely use his teammates to set up picks and screens, freeing him for his aerial assaults.
"He'll see the basket even more," Lee predicts.
Dave Telep, an ESPN writer who covers high school basketball, isn't so sure. He has conservatively ranked Carr as the No. 53 prospect in the nation.
Carr is a unique talent, Telep says: "He's fast and fearless, a good combination off the bounce to the rim. He's great in transition, when the tempo is quick, but where he's going [in fall 2013], everything is not a race. But what happens when structure and rules become the norm? Do the things he's good at project to the college level? We're watching closely."
During a recent stretch of five games, he seemed to be doing fine.
He's faster with the ball than others are without it. Against Digital Harbor High, he leaves a parabolic bounce pass spinning above the hoop for Leonard Livingston, a 6-foot-10 teammate, to stuff in. A few nights later, against powerhouse Dunbar, he drills a few bullets, passes that come so suddenly his teammates often aren't ready — but that typically show he's thinking ahead, directing play into defensive gaps as they emerge.
He drops 36 mostly spectacular points against Gonzaga at Calvin Coolidge High in Washington, a game Comcast SportsNet aired around the region. The crowd in the college-size gym erupts repeatedly as he improvises around the basket. He vaults from the top of the key, flies in the face of two and three defenders at a time, and makes so many minute adjustments while airborne — switching hands, dealing head fakes, rotating his body — you have to watch the replays to digest them.
"He's like a blur going up the court, and he has so many angles to the basket, most players at this level have no idea how to react," Martin says. "When Aquille goes up, it seems he's in the air for 30 seconds. I don't even know if he knows what he's going to do."