By Justin Silberman
It was a little more than six years ago that Aquille Carr, 22, entered Charm City basketball lore when he delivered what is now known as the “dunk heard around Baltimore.”
Carr, then a 5-foot-6, 155-pound freshman at Patterson High School, introduced himself to the city with a gravity-defying throwdown on former City College 6-foot-3 guard Nick Faust that generated more than a half-million YouTube hits. Comparisons to fellow Baltimore high school basketball icons Shawnta Robinson (5-foot-4) and Muggsy Bogues (5-foot-3) shortly followed.
“Oh, it was a great play, and I got a lot of hype and cheers for that,” Carr said of the dunk. “A lot of people, my friends, family and fans all around, told me how great of a dunk that was. That was a lot of fun that night, man, and just special.”
Ultimately, Carr finished his senior campaign at Princeton Day Academy in Lanham, Md., in 2012-13, but instead of honoring his commitment to play for Seton Hall, the ballyhooed guard left the country to play professionally in China, which didn’t last very long.
After brief pro stints with the Delaware 87ers of the NBA Development League in 2013-14 and Saint John Mill Rats of the National Basketball League of Canada in 2014, Carr is reacquainting himself with Baltimore. In a last-ditch effort to keep his NBA dream alive, Carr signed a deal with the Baltimore Hawks of the American Basketball Association Jan. 9. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
His first game back in Baltimore in nearly two years was a memorable one. Carr scored 29 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out an assist during a 111-110 loss to the Jersey Express Jan. 9, dazzling fans with his lightning quick handles, razor-sharp passes and deadly step-back jump shots.
This isn’t where Carr envisioned he would be at this stage of his career — playing in front of a handful of spectators at St. Frances Academy — but he’s thankful for the opportunity nonetheless.
The East Baltimore native is even more grateful that he’s back in his hometown, where he’s closer to his daughter, Averi, who turns 4 years old in March.
“It’s always good to come back home and play in front of your friends, family and fans,” Carr said. “I’m just going to keep working and keep putting my heart and everything I have into this for me and my daughter. The most important thing for me to do right now is just not to give up on my dream and continue grinding.”
If Carr does eventually catch on with an NBA team, his path to basketball’s pinnacle will have been an unorthodox one after not being selected during the league’s 2014 draft.
Nicknamed the “Crimestopper” because the crime rate in Baltimore supposedly decreased in the surrounding neighborhoods during his high school games, which drew thousands of patrons, Carr became something of social media sensation.
His legend grew so big that Carr donned the cover of Dime Magazine and took part in a photo shoot for GQ Magazine. What’s more, he was reportedly offered a $750,000 contract from an Italian club, Lottomatica Roma, while he was still a high school sophomore.
“There’s always been a lot attention I’ve been getting for so long and whatnot,” Carr said. “I’ve always had a lot of people watching me and telling me things, so I just try to stay focused on my game.”
Though Carr’s stay in China after high school only lasted a handful of games, he said playing alongside former NBA veterans Tracy McGrady, Gary Payton, Jason Williams and Bonzi Wells prepared him for where he is now.
“They told me to just keep working and playing, because the path I took to get where I was at was not something a lot of guys had done before,” Carr said. “So they just told me to keep getting better and that everything would work out.”
Eventually, they did. The 87ers, an affiliate of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, plucked Carr during the third round of the 2013 NBA D-League Draft. His tenure, however, was short-lived. During 10 games for Delaware, Carr averaged 10.7 points and 1.9 assists in 14 minutes per outing before the team cut him in January 2014.
Carr then took his talents north of the border, playing with the Mill Rats for their first nine games of 2014-15. He averaged 12.9 points and 3.4 assists in 23.3 minutes per contest prior to his release.
Now, Carr can only sit back and wait patiently for the NBA to call. No matter how long it may take, he remains confident his opportunity will come at some point and that his best basketball is still ahead.
“I know it’s going to work out for me one day, because I know that God has a plan for me,” Carr said. “I just let God handle all that, and I just go out and play basketball. I still go out there and show everyone that I still got it, and I just think everything will happen for me.”
Issue 218: February 2016