Maryland power forward Robert Carter Jr. was largely off the college basketball radar when the Terps began their season a little over six weeks ago.
He was the only starter not to be mentioned among the top players at his position in terms of national preseason watch lists and received just one vote for the preseason all-Big Ten Conference team.
As fourth-ranked Maryland (11-1) gets ready to begin league play Wednesday against Penn State at Xfinity Center, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound junior is bound to get a lot more attention.
On and off the court.
After game-highs of 19 points and eight rebounds in Sunday’s 87-67 home win over Marshall, Carter is averaging 13 points, second behind sophomore star Melo Trimble (14.8), and a team-high 6.6 rebounds a game.
While his scoring is up nearly three points and his rebounding is down on the average of around 1.5 a game from his sophomore season at Georgia Tech two years ago, Carter believes he is a much different - and better - player than he was then.
“I feel like I’m more complete, I transformed my body, I’m in much better shape,” said Carter, who is down 15 pounds from the 253 he played at in the Atlantic Coast Conference and a great deal stronger after spending most of last season working out with Kyle Tarp, the team's director of basketball performance.
“Also, I’m physically more ready. I’ve got a great team around me, that’s always exciting, that’s always good. Look to your teammates to make plays. You always look for double teams, but with this team it’s hard to do that.”
It’s much different for Carter than it was at Georgia Tech in that regard.
“I don’t have to deal with double-teams all the time, I feel I’m one of the hardest players to cover in the country,” Carter said. “Just as far as 1 on 1 play, I always feel like I’m going to be efficient because I’ve been doing that my whole life. But it is easier because I have so much talent around" me.
Carter, who has scored in double figures in all but two of Maryland’s games, is shooting a shade over 60 percent from the field (59-for-99), including 8-for-16 against the Thundering Herd. It would even be higher if Carter was shooting better from 3-point range.
After missing five of seven 3-point attempts on Sunday, Carter is shooting 7-for-27 from distance, similar to the 26 percent he shot in his two years at Georgia Tech. Opposing teams will certainly play off Carter until he can shoot better on 3’s.
“Today it felt good early, I’m going to continue to shoot,” Carter said. “I put in time. Coach sees me put in time, everyone sees me put in time, the janitors see me put in time, too. They’re going to fall, I have trust in my shot. I feel like every time I shoot the ball it’s going in.”
Carter knows he’s going to face tougher challenges on a more regular basis in the Big Ten than he has so far, starting with Penn State’s Brandon Taylor, a rugged 6-6, 225-pound senior who is averaging team-highs of 16.2 points and 6.2 rebounds for the 9-4 Nittany Lions.
“I feel like it’s a great league, probably when you get down to it, the best league in the country,” Carter said. “You can’t take anybody lightly, you’ve got to be ready to play each and every night. It’s a great win, whether you win by two points or you win by 20 points.”