Free Marcus Carr hashtags have been popping up all over social media in the last week.
The start of the 2018-19 college basketball season is so close you can sense the excitement across the country, but the former Pittsburgh guard still hasn’t heard from the NCAA on whether his waiver to play immediately at the University of Minnesota will be granted after transferring in the spring.
“We’re confident he will get it,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said Sunday about the 6-foot-2 sophomore point guard. “We feel like he should get it, but you never know with all that stuff.”
People close to Carr, his fans, his Gopher teammates and obviously coaches are getting antsy about the NCAA’s decision making process. Carr hopes the news comes soon with the season opener Nov. 6 against Nebraska Omaha.
“It’s definitely been an emotional ride trying to figure out every day what’s going to happen,” Carr said. “In terms of practice, I’ve just been approaching it the same. Coming into practice every day still trying to work hard, still trying to get these guys better, still trying to get better myself – really trying to always be prepared.”
Carr, a Toronto native, averaged 10 points and a team-high four assists and started 27 games for Pittsburgh in 2017-18. He was the first Panthers freshman to average double figures in scoring since former NBA player DeJuan Blair in 2007-08. His best games were a 22-point effort at North Carolina and a 12-assist game against Syracuse.
The Gophers sure could use Carr’s presence in the backcourt to help Amir Coffey and Isaiah Washington handle point guard duties this season after the loss of three-year starter Nate Mason.
Helping the U isn’t what the NCAA is interested in. Helping Carr could be what it decides to do. After all, waivers to play right away have seemingly been granted like crazy in college hoops this month.
On Tuesday, South Florida announced LSU transfer Mayan Kiir was declared to play immediately after playing eight games with the Tigers last season. North Dakota State released a statement Monday about Siena transfer Jordan Horn, a St. Paul native, being eligible to play this season after playing in 30 games last season, including 13 starts.
Big Ten fans might remember the name Mark Smith at Illinois. The former four-star recruit and Illini freshman guard had his waiver granted last week to play this year at Missouri. Higher profile waivers granted recently were former Auburn standout Mustapha Heron at St. John’s and former Alabama forward Braxton Key getting to help Virginia compete for another ACC title this season.
So that brings us back to Carr. What’s the hold up? Sources told the Star Tribune that the NCAA has asked Minnesota for more information on Carr’s case. A big part of the waiver is dealing with the emotional strain of having his head coach fired at Pitt in the spring. The only reason Carr went there was to play for Kevin Stallings, who walked away with $10 million buyout on his contract.
Carr’s mentor and AAU coach Vidal Massiah said he received a text from Minnesota’s coaches this fall that his pupil was “doing extremely well” on and off the court in Minneapolis. He had 12 points in Sunday's Maroon and Gold scrimmage in front of fans.
“I hope he’s able to play, because it’s a win-win for everyone,” Massiah said. “He’s excited he’s playing well, but he’s sitting there in limbo bracing for the worst. If he’s denied it’s going to be a national story.”
Carr was a member of the 2018 All-ACC Academic team, but he also has dreams of playing in the NBA. He’s prepared to sit out the season if it comes to that and help his teammates in practice, but the Gophers have big plans for him if he can play now.
“Makes a lot of winning plays,” Pitino said. “He’s a guy you want on your team. I think he’s a special, special player. It would drastically help our team if he were to play right away.”