At varying times in his still-nascent basketball career, Aquille Carr has been a high school champion and a YouTube sensation, a college-bound prospect and an overseas professional, a point guard considered too small for the NBA yet good enough to play with a former league All-Star.
For a player beset by contradictions and burdened with expectations, Carr's next move could be his most important yet, if only because of what it represents. The former Patterson star on Sunday signed a contract to enter the NBA Development League's draft next month, his agent said Tuesday night, all but ensuring that Carr will compete stateside for at least another season in a professional playing odyssey the 5-foot-5 guard believes will culminate in the NBA.
"The kid's not afraid of competition," Johnny Foster, Carr's Charlotte, N.C.-based agent, said in an interview. "That's why I think him making the decision not to go to Europe is a really great decision for him."
Carr, 20, who could not be reached for comment, last played this summer on the Legends Tour in China, where he teamed with former Miami Heat guard Jason Williams and two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady, among others, for a two-week playing circuit across the basketball-mad country.
After averaging about 15 points and nine assists, Foster said, Carr was offered a contract to join Qingdao Double Star of the Chinese Basketball Association. But other interests — in remaining closer to his infant daughter, Averi, in proving himself ready for the NBA — weighed more heavily.
"He really had a lot of interest in him," Foster said. "But once Aquille decided that he wanted to go this route, he kind of backed off everything else. "
In August, Carr signed an endorsement deal with Baltimore-based performance apparel giant Under Armour, Foster said. The deal was finalized while Carr was still in China, Foster said. So for the past month, Carr has been back at work, training to prepare himself for teams that may know little about him beyond his his arresting nickname, "The Crimestopper," and his arrest record.
"He's just such a unique talent," Van Whitfield, who coached Carr at Princeton Day Academy in Beltsville during the 2012-13 season, said Tuesday night.
Carr’s ascension to Baltimore prep basketball lore began with his arrival at Patterson. He averaged 25 points his freshman season. He averaged 32 and won the Class 4A state title his sophomore season. He won his second straight All-Metro Player of the Year award and state championship his junior season. So endearing was his game, full of yo-yo-like crossovers and devil-may-care decisions, that crime was said to slow in East Baltimore when he was on the court.
But as fame trailed Carr, so did question marks. He transferred to St. Patrick High (N.J.) midway through his junior season for academic reasons. He was there only a month. Last August, Carr was arrested and charged with assaulting the mother of his daughter. Those charges were later dropped. He left Patterson a second time for Arlington Country Day (Fla.), until he ended up instead at Princeton Day for his final high school season. Only his junior year commitment to play at Seton Hall seemed fixed.
But it wasn't. In March, after a 52-point barrage in his final high school game, Carr announced that he would play profesionally in Europe. It was important for him to support his family, Carr said.
The road to professional glory was not so well paved. In last June's Adidas Eurocamp, an NBA-sanctioned showcase event in Treviso, Italy, typically studded with Europe's top young talents, Carr struggled. One analyst wrote that Carr "didn't look prepared to compete in this setting," that he struggled "with his confidence and body language … amid questionable decisions with the ball." Foster said that for his first time at the international level, Carr "played well."
A continent away, in the country where Carr found his next opportunity, he rediscovered his old game. He didn't much care for the food in China, he told one reporter, but at least he felt appreciated, wanted. A highlight reel shows the pint-sized point guard up to his old tricks there: alley-oops, finger rolls, crossovers, a Houdini in sneakers.
On YouTube, the sheer volume of similarly reverent homages available perhaps belies his accomplishments to date. Below his most viewed video, with 4.6 million views as of Tuesday night, one commenter wrote: "Next Nate Robinson." The D-League could be Carr's new start to such professional legitimacy. But what comes next if it's the end?