The Saint John Mill Rats have signed play-making guard Aquille Carr to a one-year contract.
Carr’s agent, Daniel Hazan, confirmed in a phone interview that the contract has been signed and the paperwork sent to the Mill Rats Tuesday afternoon.
“Very excited about the program that Aquille is going to be part of and the team as a whole. I think this is going to be great for the city, it’s going to be great for the organization and it’s going to be amazing for him,” Hazan said.
The contract is pending approval from the international basketball governing body, FIBA. Terms were not announced.
Carr’s signing had been anticipated for more than two weeks after the 5-foot-6 guard announced on Instagram that he was headed to Canada.
Since that time, Mill Rats general manager Ian McCarthy and Carr’s agent have been finalizing terms of the agreement. Carr toured Saint John Aug. 27, visiting Harbour Station, a basketball camp at Bayside Middle School and taking part in a meet-and-greet with fans at Boston Pizza.
“Playing in Saint John means a lot because you’re not just representing yourself anymore. You’re representing your family, your new city. A lot of people are watching you so you’ve got to go out there and be a great player on the court and a good person in the city,” Carr said during his Saint John visit.
“It’s a great opportunity for me because a lot of people will be able to see that I’m in the league, doing what I need to do, sacrificing. But it’s not really a sacrifice because it’s a good town.”
Carr, 20, has been a basketball phenomenon since his junior year in high school. His ball-handling skills, razor-sharp passes and gravity-defying dunks over players a foot taller made him a social media sensation. His video clips on YouTube have garnered millions of hits.
That skill set earned him the name the Crimestopper, because his must-see exploits supposedly led to a decrease in crime in East Baltimore whenever Carr took to the court. In fact, a CNN story on Carr in 2012 reported that police statistics showed that violent crime dropped 40 percent on game days.
Academic problems followed Carr throughout high school. After forgoing a scholarship to Seton Hall, Carr decided to turn pro in 2013, exploring options overseas before being drafted last November by the Delaware 87ers, the NBA Development League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers.
However, he was released in January after leaving the team to spend time with his ailing father and his young daughter, who has since turned 2 years old.
Before his release, Carr was averaging 10.7 points, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals in 13.8 minutes per game for the 87ers.
“No one doubts his skills on the court. No one doubts his ability or anything of that nature,” Hazan said.
“The only thing is can he sustain himself, be a leader and really carry a team? That’s really the questions he’s going to answer by going to Canada. The important thing for us is for Aquille to get out of Baltimore and really focus on basketball.”
The Mill Rats scouted Carr at a $500,000 tournament this summer in Philadelphia and have been in conversation with Hazan ever since.
“I think Aquille is NBA ready. He does have a lack of size but if he can prove that he’s matured in this league, I think he has a very good shot,” Mill Rats co-owner Steve Yankopolous said.
“The reason I think Saint John is a good fit is because NBA scouts can come across the border and look at him, whether it’s when we’re playing in the Toronto area or it’s coming up from Boston, New York, anywhere along the eastern seaboard to see him.”
The Mill Rats now have three players under contract. The team re-signed six-foot guard Raheem (Radio) Singleton to a one-year-contract on Tuesday. In 25 games with Saint John, Singleton averaged 11 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. But he’ll be in tough to secure a roster spot in Saint John, with Carr, reigning NBL most valuable player Anthony Anderson starting and 6-2 Canadian guard Jabs Newby coming into training camp as the second overall pick in the draft. Anderson is expected to re-sign later this month.
“Radio is a tough kid and did well here last season,” McCarthy said in an email. “He will be great competition for Carr with his build and toughness. The final roster will be influenced by the requirement to have four Canadians but that doesn’t mean he can’t secure a spot.”
The Mill Rats also have 6-foot-11 center Naofall Folahan, whom McCarthy described as “an imposing shot blocker with NBA athleticism and a 7-6 wing span” under contract.
Folahan, 24, was born in Cotonou, Benin, West Africa, and played last season for Wagner College in New York City. He averaged 4.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game for the Wagner College Seahawks in 2013-14 and finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots. He is awaiting a Canadian work visa and clearance from the international governing body FIBA before joining the Mill Rats.
McCarthy said the Mill Rats are also close to re-signing former NBL all-star Kenny Jones. The 6-6 power forward played during the 2012-13 season for Saint John, averaging 22.6 points per game. He spent last year playing in South America.
“(The) contract is imminent too. He’s committed but dealing with his agent, who’s in another town, to get the paperwork back,” McCarthy said.
“He mentioned the London Lightning were recruiting him very hard but he said he is coming back to Saint John.”
Forwards Eric Crookshank and Tyrone Levett have also expressed an interest in returning to Saint John. McCarthy said players from last year’s roster, centre Modibo Diarra, forwards Damian Gay and Peter Wedge along with guard Dane Smith will be invited to camp, which opens in mid-October. Former Mill Rat PJ Young is also a possibility.
The four players selected by Saint John in August’s NBL draft are also expected in camp. The Mill Rats chose Newby, from Brampton, Ontario, with the second overall pick and then used the No. 5 selection to pick Jahmar McQueen, a 6-7 forward from Oakville, Ontario, who played his college ball at the University of Windsor.
With their second-round pick, 13th overall, Saint John selected 6-9 power forward/center John Paul Nyadaro, who averaged 12.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.6 blocks per game for the Central Basketball Association’s Bowling Green Hornets in 2014. The Kenyan-born Nyadaro played all four years of college at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tenn.
With the 21st pick overall, Saint John selected 6-7 guard/forward Anthony Winbush from Alexandria, Va., who played at Loyola Maryland.
The Mill Rats are in their fifth season in Saint John. They begin the 32-game regular season Nov. 1 on the road versus the Moncton Miracles. Saint John’s first home game is Nov. 6 against the defending Atlantic Division playoff champion Island Storm.