"One last ride:' Canada's Carr eyes NCAA title with Longhorns in final season
Marcus Carr's goal this season has never shifted, and that's cutting down the nets on April 3 after a win in the NCAA men's basketball final.
The Texas Longhorns star guard has been the leading scorer and facilitator (15.9 points, 4.1 assists per game) for the fifth-ranked Longhorns in his fifth and final college season.
The disappointment of falling to Purdue in the second round of last year's tournament hasn't sat well with the Toronto native.
"Kind of starts with last season, … just the way it ended. There's unfinished business here," Carr told The Canadian Press. "Came here to win a championship and cut a net down and we didn't do that.
"So that was my main goal of coming back this year and it's been my focus all year."
Texas, which enters the tournament as the second seed in the Midwest Region and opens play against Colgate on Thursday, is the third school Carr has played at. He started out at Pittsburgh before transferring to Minnesota and playing two years with the Golden Gophers.
After a drop off in production in 2021-22 with Texas — averaging 11.4 points per game after scoring 19.4 per game the year before — and the early tournament exit, Carr opted against going pro.
Regardless of what happens, Carr doesn't question his choice to return.
"I don't really try and dwell on the past," he said. "I'm definitely glad I came back and had this one last ride with my brothers, for sure."
The preparation for the 2022-23 season began with reconfiguring his body last summer. Carr lost 15 pounds, while tirelessly working on his game to be a more efficient and improved player on both ends.
"Just working out every day with my trainer, … a lot of film breakdown, and then just trying to get in the best shape possible," he said. "Changing the way I eat. Just working that much more harder, finding another gear."
Carr also worked on improving his chemistry with his teammates.
"I think that he's worked hard with connecting with his teammates over the summer and into the fall," interim coach Rodney Terry said. "I think we have great chemistry with the guys, but those guys really made that connection themselves this summer in terms of spending time with each other and I think it's carried over into (Marcus's) play.
"His leadership has been tremendous. He and (forward) Brock Cunningham are probably the main leaders on this year's team and for a better part of the year, as Marcus goes, the Texas Longhorns go in terms of scoring the ball and playing with great pace."
It wasn't all about spending time with teammates and imparting knowledge on younger players. Carr also wanted coaches to put more on his shoulders.
"From the beginning of the season, I told them that they could push me and expect a lot out of me and they've done that the whole way through," Carr said. "I just appreciate that they're able to do that for me."
All of the work has translated into success, as Carr has "trusted his teammates" while putting together eight 20-plus point performances — including 41 against Texas A&M Commerce on Dec. 27.
Leading up to the Big 12 tournament, Terry had said Carr should be in the conference's Player of the Year conversation.
“I think if Marcus doesn't get enough recognition, I'll be the first to say it, I think he should be a guy in consideration for player of the year in this league," Terry said. "He's not a guy that's going to toot his own horn in that regard, but I think he's done enough to be in position to be player of the year.
"He's had to carry a heavy load. He's played a lot of minutes this year and I think he's had that kind of year, one where I know a lot of people are not talking about him for player of the year."
Carr, however, has only one goal in his sights.
"Definitely honoured that my coach thinks that of me," he said. "But in my mind, I'm not really focused on individual accolades.
"I understand that those things come whenever you're on a successful team and you're playing well, but my main goal is just to win a championship with my teammates."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2023.
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press