Sampson Carter living up to offensive potential for UMass

By Patrick Strohecker

Sampson Carter always showed that he had the potential to be a dominant force on the offensive end.

Due to playing time restrictions and various injuries, he never lived up to that potential in his first three years with the Massachusetts men’s basketball team.

Evan Sahagian/Daily Collegian

Now, in his senior season, he’s finally showing UMass coach Derek Kellogg and ans the offensive prowess that they have long anticipated.

“I’ve always thought (of) Sampson as a great player and now he’s playing with some confidence, which is good,” Kellogg said.

That confidence has translated into 29 points for Carter through the Minutemen’s first two games. He’s been more proactive on the offensive side of the floor, making plays for himself and his teammates, rather than waiting for opportunities to come to him.

While from the outside it may look like it is Carter making plays for himself, he has UMass’ guards to thank for his early involvement in the offense.

“I’m playing with a good point guard and a good two guard that’s willing to pass and I just know I gotta stay ready at any given time,” he said.

Carter is talking about senior point guard Chaz Williams and sophomore Derrick Gordon, who have combined for 19 assists through the first two games. Both are perennial scorers but also look to distribute the ball if a shooting lane isn’t open.

Even with strong guard play making plays to get others involved, Carter has taken it upon himself to become a more viable option on offense.

Last season, he dealt with nagging injuries throughout the entire season, causing him to settle for more jump shots and 3-pointers, rather than use his 6-foot-8, 220-pound frame to get easy baskets inside.

“I trained my body real well in the preseason,” Carter said. “I went hard in the weight room. I feel like I can go through anybody and I’m willing to go through contact. I’ve been talking with Lou Roe and he’s been coaching me and telling me to go through everybody and be more physical. He’s got me with this mindset that no one can stop me.”

And so far, it’s been hard for opponents to stop Carter.

He’s averaging 14.5 points per game through the first two games, good for third on the team. He’s shooting 50 percent from the field and is more aggressive in attacking the basket, earning more trips to the free throw line.

He’s attempted 18 free throws, tied with Williams for the team lead in that category. And while free throw shooting has been a downfall for the Minutemen in past years, Carter has thrived this season, making 13 of his attempts, including four straight in the final minute to seal the win against Louisiana State on Tuesday.

“I think I’m a guy that does well under pressure, so anytime in that situation, I feel like I can knock them down,” Carter said following Tuesday’s game.

Kellogg noted that he’s seen an increase in maturity throughout his entire team this season, but  couldn’t help but mention the individual growth of Carter as a player from his first three seasons to now.

“It’s kind of like what we anticipated he was going to be when we recruited him,” Kellogg said. “It was going to take him a little bit of time and then as he got older and more mature, he’s playing at a good pace and not rushing and it just looks like he’s comfortable out there.”

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at pstrohec[email protected] and followed on Twitter @P_Strohecker.