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Carey has new look, new role at Longwood

BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

FARMVILLE—The long braids that once dangled as Tristan Carey dashed up and down the basketball court at Colonial Beach High School have been cut off.

The moniker Carey was known by (T.T.) when he led the Drifters to the Group A, Division 1 championship in 2009 has been replaced by his birth name.

Carey has undergone a personal transformation. It’s helped him make a smooth transition on the court at Longwood University after a year at La Salle and a redshirt transfer season with the Lancers.

“It just represents maturity,” Carey said of the changes. “The hair and the name was high school. It’s a new me. That’s all it is—leaving the past as the past and living for the moment and the future.”

Carey believes he’s on track toward a successful future at Longwood, where he’s a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard.

The Lancers (8–16) have endured a difficult season because of injuries and the suspension of their starting point guard, Jeremiah Bowman.

However, Carey has been a bright spot. His abilities, as well as his weaknesses, were on display on Saturday when the Lancers suffered a 100–99 overtime loss to Seattle at Willett Hall.

Longwood had just seven healthy players for the game, and the Redhawks appeared bigger, faster and stronger. Still, the Lancers built a 19-point halftime lead as Carey scored 14 of his 20 points.

“That was excellent, but we have to find ways to push for even more,” head coach Mike Gillian said, “because he can be great.”

On an early Seattle possession, Carey made a steal and a crowd-pleasing two-handed dunk. He went on to grab 10 rebounds, dish out six assists and make five steals.

Bowman’s suspension, however, forced Carey to play point guard for the second straight game.

He didn’t commit a turnover in the first half, but as the Redhawks increased their defensive pressure, Carey was forced into six second-half miscues.

Gillian said because the team is short-handed, it may require Carey to do too much. He said in addition to running the offense, Carey is asked to score, rebound and play tough defense.

“We’re doing it out of necessity, but what’s happening, is he’s learning,” Gillian said. “All of these experiences are going to make him a better player. A lot of learning went into a game like that.”

After the game, Carey said he felt like he let down his teammates. He said learning to play point guard is an ongoing process, but the Lancers believe in him.

“That’s tough when you lose your starting point guard, but he’s going to get better,” senior shooting guard Martiz Washington said. “He just needs to slow down, and with a little bit of help from his teammates, he’ll fulfill that role.”

Washington said the Lancers support Carey because his outgoing personality has been a perfect fit since he joined the program in the 2010–11 season.

Gillian said Carey is always smiling and upbeat. He’s been quite popular on campus, as well. Gillian said it takes a while for Carey to reach class or practice because so many people want to stop and chat with him.

“Coming in, he just really fit in with us, personality-wise, and as a scorer,” Washington added. “You can’t take that from him. He brings good energy, and he’s a great person.”

Carey wasn’t as happy at La Salle in Philadelphia. So at the end of his freshman season, he immediately called Gillian, who had recruited him out of high school. His mother, Theresa Fulcher, said the small-town feel in Farmville fits her son better than the big-city lifestyle.

“He’s very happy. He’s very comfortable here,” Fulcher said. “He says it feels just like home.”

Carey said in retrospect, his transition to big-time college basketball from the smallest classification in Virginia may have happened too quickly.

Carey didn’t have any scholarship offers during his senior season. But La Salle came calling after it ended, and Carey had to take summer school classes at Colonial Beach to become academically eligible. He was then thrust into a role as a reserve player because the Explorers were short-handed.

Carey said sitting out one season at Longwood because of NCAA transfer rules was the best thing that could’ve happened to him. He was able to practice with the Lancers, so he learned their offensive and defensive systems. He was also able to get accustomed to college classwork without the responsibility of playing in games.

“Some people don’t need that one year, but I think I needed it,” Carey said. “It was an opportunity to better myself and improve on the things I needed to work on.”

It’s paid off this year as Carey is second on the team in scoring (13.0 points per game). He also leads the remaining players in assists (2.9) and steals (1.1).

Gillian is excited about Carey’s future. The Lancers currently play an independent schedule, but they’re set to join the Big South conference in July. Gillian is hoping Carey’s final two years help the Lancers transition into a new era.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with how he’s performed and the way he’s handled himself,” Gillian said. “What he’s doing now is going to prepare him for an unbelievable two years from this point forward.

“We’re very excited about what’s coming. Sky’s the limit for him.”

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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