Today we’re focusing on Ben Carter, a versatile forward who filled a variety of roles before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
REBELS REPORT CARD
Player: Ben Carter
Stats: 22 games, 24.0 minutes, 8.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 55.6 FG%
Expectations: A lack of leadership had been a huge problem for recent UNLV teams, so bringing in Carter as a transfer from Oregon two offseasons ago was a no-brainer. After taking a redshirt in 2014-15, Dave Rice expected him to be a jack-of-all trades on the court, a high-IQ player and most of all, a genuine team leader.
Performance: Because of Carter’s ability to do a little bit of everything, the coaching staff wanted to deploy him off the bench in order to bring balance to the second unit. And Carter excelled in that role, backing up all frontcourt spots and finishing games as part of the Rebels’ preferred closing lineup.
On offense, he consciously deferred to his more high-profile teammates, taking a backseat for the good of the squad. He set good screens, made the extra pass, made sure he was always in the right spot and finished when he got the chance. His shot selection was superb, as he made 55.6 percent of his shots (second-best on the team) and averaged 0.964 points per possession (third).
But while Carter certainly pitched in on offense, he made his biggest impact at the other end of the court. Though he lacked the size, length or athleticism of some of the Rebels’ more renowned prospects, Carter proved to be a master of positioning and drawing charges. He cut off driving angles, used his body to protect the rim and displayed expert timing when challenging shots. For the season, he held his opponents to 24.4-percent shooting and allowed just 0.505 points per possession, both the best marks on the team. Thanks in large part to his awesome defense, Carter posted the best plus/minus rating among all Rebels, coming in at +9.77 per 40 minutes.
Carter’s advanced stats were impressive, and anyone who watched UNLV this season could see the obvious difference he made when he was on the court. It became even more glaringly clear on Jan. 30 against San Diego State, when Carter crumpled to the floor with a torn ACL, a devastating injury that knocked him out for the rest of the season. Without Carter to hold things together, the Rebels nosedived, especially on defense. Before Carter’s injury, UNLV allowed 67.0 points per game; without him, the Rebels gave up 86.6 per game.
It’s hard to imagine a reserve player (24.0 minutes per game) having a greater impact that Carter did in 2015-16. In addition to his performance on the court, his teammates and coaches unanimously recognized him as a team leader and an ultimate “glue guy.” When he went down for the season, the Rebels were simply unable to recover.
Needs Improvement: It’s extreme nitpicking, but Carter was a little loose with the ball in 2015-16, as he committed 3.1 turnovers per 40 minutes and posted a turnover rate of 20.7 percent (second-worst on the team, ahead of only Dwayne Morgan at 24.2 percent). Most of that can be chalked up to the fact that UNLV leaned on him to be a passer in the frontcourt, but wherever Carter plays next year, cutting down on turnovers should be a priority.
Future Forecast: A healthy Ben Carter would have been a perfect fit for Chris Beard’s system, so it was a big loss when Carter asked to be released to explore his grad transfer options. If he leaves UNLV as expected, he’ll have plenty of suitors despite the uncertainty surrounding his knee. And if he bounces back to his pre-injury levels (admittedly not a guarantee), Carter can help just about any team in the country. Look for him to land with a national championship contender and make them better next year.
Final Grade: A-
Maybe more than any other Rebel, Carter understood what the coaches wanted from him and did his best to fulfill those expectations. He played his role to perfection and was a legitimate game-changer on the defensive end, making him one of the team’s most impactful players despite not receiving starter’s minutes. The only thing keeping this from being an A grade is durability—had Carter not missed the final 11 games, he probably would have gotten it. As it stands, UNLV fans have to be a little sad that they only got 22 games out of Carter’s college career.