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Christianna Carr started playing basketball because of a middle school crush. She was struggling to find a new sport after losing interest in volleyball, so her friend invited her to play basketball with her backyard hoop.
Carr had always been left out because she was the only member of her immediate friend group who didn’t play basketball. But when she knew a group of boys were playing in that backyard — one of whom she particularly liked — she was especially inclined to join in.
Later, Carr went back home, and told her dad, former NBA player Chris Carr, that she wanted to try out for the Oak Point (Minnesota) middle school basketball team. A few years later, Carr was one of the top basketball prospects in the country.
Carr’s quick rise to Division I basketball, and ultimately Syracuse, stemmed from her close bond with Chris, who coached her sporadically through high school, AAU and all three years at Kansas State. Now in her first season at SU — and first season not playing for her father — Carr has started in all 26 games, averaging 11.8 points per game while shooting 35.1% from deep.
Chris quickly shaped Carr’s fundamentals at his gym, 43 Hoops. During summers, Carr played at the gym from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or until Chris would leave. In the mornings, Chris organized what he called “The Breakfast Club,” which ran from 7:30-9 a.m., where Carr trained with a mixture of college, high school and middle school players.
But sometimes, Carr trained beforehand, as early as 5:30 in the morning. Once she was good enough, Carr joined Chris and his friends, who had played European basketball, before the gym opened for pickup games and other workouts. Throughout the day, Chris ran camps and open gym training sessions that featured various collegiate and professional players and then coached Carr’s AAU team, 43 Hoops, in the evening.
“I fell in love with it. It was just a great atmosphere,” Carr said. “We shared a lot of laughs, a lot of memories. It was just a place where we could go, talk a bunch of crap and get better while doing it.”
Carr was born in Chicago when Chris played for the Chicago Bulls, attending games as an infant, and was always around Chris when he coached high school basketball. Initially, Carr took up dance, mimicking her mother Tanya, who was a professional dancer for the Minnesota Timberwolves. But Chris wanted her to try a sport that suited her height.
Carr’s parents weren’t surprised when she first received offers because of how naturally she picked up the game. Tanya recalled seeing an offer from Texas Tech as soon as they got off the plane in Minnesota after playing at an AAU tournament, and the family watched as the offers continued to come in.
“You started to see coaches were lining up along the courtside, and I was like, ‘Wow, this just went really fast,’” Tanya said.
Ahead of Carr’s junior season, Chris got an assistant coaching job for Kansas State’s women’s basketball team, and the Carrs moved to Manhattan, Kansas. For Carr, the toughest part of the move was leaving her 43 Hoops AAU team, meaning that she was going to be coached by someone other than Chris for the first time.
“I just had to leave behind a big piece of home and a big piece of my heart,” Carr said. “I always knew that my dad’s biggest dream was to go be a college coach. So when it comes to family and accomplishing their dreams, you go let them do that, and you stand 10 toes behind them.”
Carr joined the Missouri Phenom EYBL team and played for Manhattan (Kansas) High School, where she led the team to a state title as a junior.
Chris was still on the sidelines, but this time as a recruiter. Instead of helping Carr on the bench, Chris would always be on the sidelines in his neon Kansas State shirt alongside dozens of Division I coaches. And as the NCAA’s recruiting rules changed and college coaches weren’t allowed to talk to players until their junior year of high school, Carr remembered Chris being reported for breaking NCAA violations when talking to her after games.
The two soon reunited at Kansas State when Carr committed to the program in December 2016. Although the Wildcats weren’t on Carr’s radar until late in the recruiting process, it’s a program she learned to love once Chris began coaching there, she said.
But Carr was ultimately sold on Kansas State when it hosted UConn on Dec. 11, 2017. The arena was sold out, and even though the Wildcats lost, that environment — and being close to family — were the deciding factors for Carr, leading to her commitment the next day. Still, that transition didn’t go as smoothly as Carr had hoped.
“There were games where I was so annoyed with him because he’d be constantly telling me stuff all the time,” Carr said.
Carr knew that Chris always had her best interest in mind. He was the one who had seen Carr’s shot develop from the beginning and never refrained from pointing out a mistake in her form. Most importantly for Carr, she knew Chris was a coach that could be trusted.
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It’s why Carr’s transition to Syracuse has been a basketball experience unlike any other. For the first time in her career, she isn’t playing in a place where her family can attend every game or where Chris can’t give her immediate feedback.
That doesn’t mean Chris isn’t still constantly calling Carr and telling her where she could improve, something he likely wouldn’t be able to avoid doing even if he tried, Carr said.
Chris will finally have the chance to see her play live at the Carrier Dome for Syracuse’s Senior Night game against Boston College. In her final collegiate season, Carr has played multiple new positions on a team lacking existing chemistry, but she has taken the most important piece of advice Chris gave her and ran with it at Syracuse.
“She’s like, ‘Dad, you always taught me if I could walk, I could play. No matter how tough the situation, I owe it to the girls I go to war with every night to give them the best effort,’” Chris said. “I’m very proud of her for having that approach.”
The post How Christianna Carr’s relationship with former NBA father helped her to Division I appeared first on The Daily Orange.