As Braeden Carrington put on a show for the crowd at North Central University in Minneapolis, he knew Wednesday night wasn't about him or his Park Center team taking home the title.
The Gophers recruit's 35 points earned him MVP honors and led the Pirates to the inaugural George Floyd Jr. Memorial Holiday Classic championship vs. Minneapolis North.
But Carrington, a 6-4 senior, realized the significance of being able to take part in an event in tribute to Floyd, who was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Floyd's alma mater, Jack Yates Senior High School in Houston, traveled to Minnesota to play in the four-team event, which also included North and Chicago Orr Academy.
"You're kind of playing in George Floyd's name," Carrington said. "Before we left for [North Central] to play, our coaches let us know this was a special event. It means a lot to the city. It's just super special and nice that we could be the first team to win it."
Park Center improved to 7-0 this season after the 67-55 victory over Minneapolis North on Wednesday. Carrington also had 19 points in a 77-36 victory against Chicago Orr on Tuesday at North Central.
Carrington continues to solidify his status as the state's top three-point shooter, but he's also blossoming as a facilitator. It's a role he hopes to grow into once he joins Ben Johnson's program in 2022-23.
"I can see myself doing something similar to what Payton Willis is doing right now in a way," Carrington said about the U's senior captain and floor leader. "I'm starting to get a lot stronger with the ball. Last year, I was a little shaky and had a lot of turnovers. It was my first year playing point guard full time. Now I'm a lot more confident in what I'm doing. I have teammates and coaches who trust in me."
The Gophers' 10-1 start under Johnson has taken the Big Ten by surprise. But Carrington thinks they could be undefeated. He was in the crowd when Michigan State escaped with a 75-67 win Dec. 8 at the Barn.
"I feel like that Michigan State game got away from them with their shooters not hitting that night," he said. "But the Gophers have really been playing hard and Coach Johnson has a really good system. Everybody believes in him. Michigan was a big win. They're not always [more talented] than the other team, but they want it more. It shows they're really working hard. Hopefully they can keep it up."
The Gophers signed Carrington, Park of Cottage Grove big man Pharrel Payne, and Arizona Compass Prep and former Osseo forward Joshua Ola-Joseph in the early signing period. But the 6-9 Payne, a four-star prospect, has been sidelined so far this season with a hip injury.
"He just knows once he gets back, he's going to be a big factor and could help them make a deep run in state this year," Carrington said. "I know he's definitely itching to get back, but it's health over everything right now."
All eyes were on the future Gopher's offensive outburst at the Floyd Classic. Carrington's averaged 21 points, but the Pirates (also led by San Jose State recruit Leo Torbor and Cody Pennenaker) will be far from a one-man show in their quest for a state championship.
"In the last two games, our defense looked like it really improved," Carrington said. "We got up and down pretty well. We were firing on all cylinders. We're taking big strides as a team. If we keep improving, it's going to get scary for opponents the rest of this season."