College basketball: Jamel Carpenter signs with Fayetteville State
By Mike London
Jamel Carpenter played in a Florida vs. Georgia junior college all-star game.
He can’t remember the score. He doesn’t know how many points he accounted for. He does recall that his team won.
That’s Carpenter in a nutshell.
Carpenter, the Rowan County Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007, has spent the last two seasons earning all-league honors at Florida Community College in Jacksonville and improving his academic standing.
The 6-foot-2 guard signed with Fayetteville State last week. He will take a wide range of skills, a million positive intangibles and a winning attitude to the Broncos of the Division II CIAA.
“People that haven’t seen me play since high school, I haven’t changed that much,” Carpenter said. “My skills are somewhat better, but the big thing is I still go hard. I’ve still got that extra energy to win.”
West coach Mike Gurley would write a book about Carpenter if he had time.
“His drive to win was up there among the best of all the guys I’ve coached,” Gurley said. “He was a magnet for winning and playing hard, and he could be a vocal leader without being bossy. He understood someone had to be out in front of the troops. He always wanted it to be him.”
Carpenter was a good quarterback for West’s football team, piloting an 11-2 squad as a senior. He rushed for 557 yards and passed for 751 between handoffs to K.P. Parks and Mike McGorda, who combined for nearly 3,000 rushing yards that season.
On the basketball court, Carpenter was a four-year varsity player. As a freshman in 2003-04, he played on the only team Gurley’s had at West that took its lumps.
During Carpenter’s sophomore year, the Falcons climbed to third place in the NPC. His junior and senior years they were back on top of the league.
Carpenter was NPC Player of the Year both seasons.
“It got to the point that Jamel was using the same catch-phrases I used,” Gurley said with a laugh. “I’d be ready to yell at somebody, and then I realized I didn’t need to. Jamel was already reminding them they needed to block out or do this or do that. Man, I loved that.”
Carpenter scored 1,470 points at West, a total that ranks fourth in school history. He was never a pure shooter, but he was money in the fourth quarter from any angle and any distance. He also was the guy Gurley wanted to see at the foul line late in games.
Carpenter was invited to play in the East-West All-Star Game. He had 11 points, including an impressive one-handed dunk, but was far more excited that his team won in Greensboro.
Carpenter’s stuffing of stat sheets impressed numerous coaches, but he didn’t have a ton of college options. Philip Stitt, who was then the head coach at Florida Community College, was thrilled to sign him.
“That junior college road is a very tough one,” Gurley said. “There’s no fanfare. There’s no glory. It’s a very alone commitment. You’re on your own, and you either come back home or you get it done and become a man. Jamel did it.”
Carpenter’s always been able to play. He’s always been a quality person.
At FCC, he found the last puzzle piece. He started hitting the books.
“It was about a year ago that he really started taking academics very seriously,” Gurley said. “Now he really wants that education. He’s not just going to Fayetteville State to play basketball for two years. He’s going there to get a degree.”
Like Gurley, Stitt pushed Carpenter but also showed him he cared. Stitt moved on to Grambling prior to last season, but Carpenter returned to FCC for his sophomore year and played for coach Neil Orr.
Carpenter led a 17-14 team, averaging 13.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists. He had a team-high 43 steals.
“My experience in Florida was something I really enjoyed,” Carpenter said. “I had a great time playing, and I learned a lot about being smart and executing with a shot clock. I had to use my basketball I.Q. to have success because at that level everyone has athletic ability.”
Carpenter shot 80 percent from the line last season. His other shooting numbers ó 31 percent on 3s and 40 percent on field goals ó are numbers he needs to bump a bit if he’s going to make an impact at Fayetteville State.
He realizes that.
“I’m working hard on my shot, especially the 3-ball,” Carpenter said. “My confidence is growing.”
Carpenter had several offers to contemplate this spring. He really likes Pfeiffer coach Dave Davis, but the school was a little too close to home. He seriously considered Anderson, but Fayetteville State was the best fit.
There’s an opportunity to play immediately, The Broncos lost a lot, including standouts Andy Gebru and Darshawn Johnson.
Then there’s the coaching situation. Fayetteville State’s new head man Alphonza Kee was at Grambling last season, working on a staff that included Stitt and head coach Rick Duckett. Duckett coached Fayetteville State when Kee played there.
Stitt and Kee also worked together at Winston-Salem State. Stitt has always been a Carpenter fan and no doubt recommended him highly once Kee started putting together a recruiting class.
The system that Kee will use at FSU has similarities with what Stitt was running at Florida Community College.
“I’m really comfortable with FSU,” Carpenter said. “It’s a coach I trust. It’s a system I’m used to.”
There are sharper shooters, higher jumpers and quicker defenders out there, but Carpenter brings the rarest quality of all to the Broncos ó leadership.
He won’t waste motion. He won’t force shots. He’ll make good decisions. He’ll will the Broncos to some wins in tight games.
“Jamel will compete very hard against the best teams and players in the CIAA,” Gurley said. “He has a chance to make some noise.”
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