During a late-August workout in his hometown of Toronto, Marcus Carr tossed up shots from behind the three-point arc, not missing for an entire minute.
The flick of Carr’s wrist and his follow through seemed to go along with the beat to rapper Pop Smoke’s “Got It On Me” blaring in the background.
Fourteen shots. All net. The first miss, though, was met with a shout of frustration by Carr.
Now that he has returned to the Gophers this month, the gifted junior point guard aims not to miss — not on boosting his NBA draft stock, not on proving he and his team are among the Big Ten’s elite.
“He’s got a lot more to show,” Carr’s trainer and mentor Vidal Massiah said. “I think he’s going after the Big Ten Player of the Year award.”
Spending the entire summer away from the Gophers, Carr got into the best shape of his career.
After removing his name from the early entry list for the NBA draft July 31, Carr stayed in Canada to train while most of the Gophers showed up for voluntary workouts in Minnesota. He made progress while remaining safe from the coronavirus at home.
“Definitely felt more comfortable to be where I was at,” Carr told the Star Tribune recently. “Usually we’re all here obviously together in the summertime. That helps with the team doing workouts and building chemistry. But being back here now I still think we’re going to be able to do that.”
Carr’s first workout with the 2020-21 Gophers came after he arrived and cleared COVID-19 protocol two weeks ago. Coaches and teammates immediately saw a different player, especially physically.
The 6-2, 195-pound Carr has a much leaner frame. His movements are quicker, with even more pop to what was an already lethal first step. He’s more athletic off the floor, easily finishing above the rim.
“Just tried to get into the best shape I could,” Carr said. “Just having a bigger focus on what I’m eating. Being conscious about what I’m putting into my body every day. And how that affects me.
‘‘Bigger emphasis on sleep, resting and recovery. And just working hard on all those things together really helped me to make those improvements this summer.”
Coming off an All-Big Ten third team season with the Gophers, Carr announced in late March he was testing the NBA draft waters. He was preparing himself to play professionally this year if that was the best option.
“That was definitely part of the plan going into the summer,” Carr said. “Being ready for whatever was going to happen.”
Carr interviewed with some NBA teams, Massiah said. But the draft process with COVID-19 restrictions made it impossible to experience the process they hoped for. Just receiving interest from the next level was “a blessing” and huge for his confidence, he said.
Carr averaged 15.4 points and 6.7 assists last season, setting a school record with 207 assists. The NBA feedback he received included improving his scoring efficiency and decisionmaking at the end of games when fatigue can become a factor.
“His goal this year is to position himself as a first-round pick,” Massiah said. “Shooting the three. Becoming a better finisher and making better decisions in the paint. And just getting in great shape. He used this offseason to change his body and go into the year with some flow and rhythm. His confidence is at an all-time high.”
Along with fellow junior guard Gabe Kalscheur, Carr is one of two returning starters for a 15-16 Gophers team under Richard Pitino last season that suffered a big loss with All-America center Daniel Oturu entering the draft.
“I’m really happy he’s back,” Kalscheur said about Carr earlier this month. “He looks good.”
The Gophers still are waiting for the Big Ten to decide when the conference season will begin, but early preseasons prognostications from various sources are overlooking Carr and his teammates.
“We’re not always selected as favorites,” Carr said. “That’s definitely motivation for us to go harder and go and get the job done and prove everybody wrong.”