Watching his older brother’s successful jump from Canadian prep star to an eventual Final Four at South Carolina, Marcus Carr expected nothing less when it was his turn to play college basketball.
Carr’s brother, Duane Notice, needed patience. South Carolina finished near the bottom of the SEC before going on the biggest NCAA Tournament run in school history his senior year.
Carr had to learn patience, too. Pittsburgh went 0-18 in the ACC his freshman year, costing coach Kevin Stallings his job. The point guard transferred to Minnesota and sat an entire season under NCAA rules.
He reemerged last season as a third-team All-Big Ten selection, but Minnesota finished 8-12 in conference, putting another one of his coaches, Richard Pitino, on the hot seat.
Wednesday’s opening night marks a new opportunity for Carr to lead a team to the next level like his brother did. And it’s a chance to ease some doubts around Pitino’s program, too.
“It just comes down to winning for me now,” Carr said. “I just want to win.”
Pitino added three potential impact transfers — 7-foot center Liam Robbins, 6-6 wing Both Gach and 6-8 forward Brandon Johnson — along with intriguing freshman guard Jamal Mashburn Jr.
But it’s Carr who could carry Gophers basketball back into the Big Ten’s upper echelon.
“We all know and recognize we can be as good as we want to be,” Carr said. “There is a lot of talent, and we also know there are a lot of workers and competitive people on the team. Combining those things together … it’s going to make for a great team.”
The last time Pitino had a talented, all-league junior guard was in 2016-17 when Nate Mason led the Gophers to the NCAA tournament and the program’s only winning Big Ten record in the last 15 seasons. He’s grateful to finally have an experienced point guard again leading the show.
“I think he’ll be one of the best point guards in the country,” Pitino said. “He’s a vocal leader. He wants to win. He’s ruthless when it comes to competition.”
Carr basically grew up following his brother to open gyms where the best players in Toronto would gather, including former Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins. Despite being five years younger, Carr would eventually jump in and compete.
“I just knew that he was going to be special,” Notice said. “Just because as a young guy his [basketball] knowledge was something that was impressive. He picked up things very easily.”
Carr had a blueprint for success in his big brother. Notice was also a powerfully-built and athletic 6-2 combo guard with strong leadership skills, and similar toughness and heart. Notice was a constant on Canada’s junior national teams medaling in international play and used a year in prep school in the U.S. to earn a scholarship to play for Frank Martin at South Carolina.
Like Carr now, Notice had to deal with disappointment, as the Gamecocks finished 12th and 13th in the SEC his first two years. But South Carolina won 25 and 26 games his last two seasons, including back-to-back top-three league finishes and the school’s first-ever Final Four in 2017.
“It was amazing for me personally because my family was able to watch all the games throughout every round,” Notice said. “Marcus was there for most of them as well. I could see how it was exciting for him.”
Carr’s family saw a big opportunity for him with a fresh start with Pitino in Minnesota.
That excitement was put on hold, though, once the NCAA denied Carr’s waiver twice to play without sitting out for the Gophers in 2018-19.
Carr dealt with his frustration by meditating to reduce stress. He still does it.
“I try to meditate every day,” he said. “I definitely think it helps me.”
To see that maturity in his younger brother, “inspired me,” Notice said.
Big brother still critiqued Carr’s performances by phone after games last season for the Gophers. There were some highs. But real lows, too, just like at Pitt.
Following a season-low two points on 1-for-10 shooting in last year’s 20-point loss at Iowa, Carr ended a somber chat with Notice saying: “I got you. I’m ready.” The next game Carr had a career-high 35 points in Minnesota’s upset over then-No. 3 Ohio State at the Barn.
“I don’t want to be too overbearing,” Notice said. “I just tell him to keep his head up, keep going, keep pushing, keep leading and keep being aggressive.”
Younger brother had to play the pick-me-up role for big brother this summer, though.
Competing in the Canadian Basketball League, Notice suffered a severe Achilles’ injury that has him sidelined for this year. On hold now are Carr’s brother’s NBA dreams after playing last year for the Toronto Raptors G League affiliate.
Carr’s dedicating this Gophers’ season to his favorite pro basketball player.
“He means everything to me,” Carr said of his brother. “He’s always been my role model. He’s always been my motivation to see how hard he goes. He always pushes me to be better and go harder. I know he’s a fighter and a warrior. He’ll be back stronger.”
Pitino didn’t know for sure if Carr would return for his junior year.
Carr tested the NBA draft process, training in Toronto, preparing as if he would go pro.
The Gophers didn’t see their captain for practice all summer, but he withdrew his name from the draft in late July.
“The focus of the summer was to go as hard as possible,” said Carr, “and be ready for whatever I was doing next.”
Next is now taking Daniel Oturu’s place as the face of the program after the All-America big man left early for the NBA.
“Marcus, I think could be in the running for Big Ten player of the year,” Oturu said. “He looks good. He looks better. He looks ready.”
For safety reasons with travel during the pandemic, Carr didn’t join the team until September. Having the U’s record-setting assist man and floor leader absent for months could’ve been detrimental to team chemistry building with six newcomers.
It didn’t take long, though, for Carr to earn the respect of his new teammates.
Showing up in the best shape of his career, Carr arrived on a mission.
“He has no problem calling guys out,” Pitino said. “He wants to win. Guys respect that. He had an unbelievable offseason. He looks great. And he’s primed to be one of the best guards in the country.”