BERKELEY, Calif. — Thank Archie Miller and the YMCA of Greater Rochester, N.Y.
Nahziah Carter started this season as a relative unknown to most Washington basketball fans. That’s no longer the case. Carter has become too hard to ignore. He’s made a cottage industry of dunking the basketball with such force, it should come with a graphic warning. When Carter is not dunking, he’s doing the things required to earn around 14 minutes per game as a true freshman.
Carter’s road to Montlake was anything but straightforward. As a youth, the Rochester native walked away from playing multiple sports to spend countless hours at the local YMCA to get better at basketball.
The result of his work was signing a scholarship to play at Dayton. At least it was until Miller, Dayton’s coach at the time, left for Indiana and it created a feeding frenzy for Carter until he chose to play for Mike Hopkins and the Huskies.
“I’ve told him to keep working hard and be coachable,” Carter’s mother, Lonnie Moore, told The News Tribune in a phone interview. “I told him you’ll be able to make it to where you want to take this thing. Get your school and grades down and the sky is the limit.
“Space is the limit. The universe is the limit.”
Moore was sure her son was going to play baseball and make it to the major leagues. Baseball was his best sport, then football and basketball was last.
The turning point came when Carter, who was playing for his AAU team, had trouble getting off the bench.
Carter took it to heart and saw it as a chance to prove he deserved to play. Moore got her son a YMCA membership. He spent at least 10 hours a day working on his game.
“He was a freshman and was starting to get better,” Moore said. “I have the assistant coaches coming out and they cannot talk to him, but, they can talk to me.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. This could be something.’”
She said that motivated Carter to work harder. If he wasn’t at the YMCA, he was playing with his AAU team.
The mother and son talked about the chances of him playing college basketball someday. Moore said she was “crazy” about the possibility while her son never got too high or low.
Just ask Patrick Ewing. Moore grew up in New York City and she is a die-hard New York Knicks fan to this day.
“That’s not something to brag out,” she said of being a Knicks fan. “The Knicks are terrible.”
Again, she’s always going to be a New Yorker.
Ewing, who is in his first season at Georgetown, was one of many college coaches who showed an interest in Carter once he re-opened his recruitment after Miller left the Flyers for the Hoosiers.
The former Knicks superstar called her phone and wanted to speak with her about why his alma mater would be a good fit for Carter.
“I was like ‘Oh My God! Patrick Ewing is calling my phone!,” she said. “Nahziah goes, ‘Mom. Calm down.’”
Moore said Boston College, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Indiana, North Carolina State and St. John’s made a strong run at her son.
Even Kentucky was in the picture. She said the Wildcats wanted Carter to reclassify for their 2018 class.
Carter was on Syracuse’s radar and once Hopkins was hired at UW, he had to build a class. The mother and son knew Hopkins from the camp scene.
“When he got (the UW job), he called all excited and you know how Hopkins is an excited guy,” she said. “He said ‘I got this coaching job, I am the head man and I want Nahziah.’”
“I thought when he said ‘Washington’ he meant Washington D.C. I was like, ‘I want him there too.’”
She soon got over the initial shock of her son being across the country. They got on a flight, took an official visit and Carter was so impressed, he canceled a trip to Indiana and chose UW.
Carter enrolled at UW and has gradually become an important part of Hopkins’ setup.
At 6 feet, 6 inches, he provides the length needed to alternate between shooting guard and small forward. His athleticism and size allows him to take on players at both positions on defense.
He’s averaging 5.2 points and recently scored a career-high 17 against Stanford.
OK. Great. But what about the dunks?
Carter is making a habit of producing at least one memorable slam per game. He attacks the rim in different ways, but the anatomy of his dunks are similar.
Most times, he’s nowhere near the ball or the rim. But he’s close enough to where he can jump into the picture and take control in a theatrical manner.
“You can honestly see it coming, practicing with him all the time,” Huskies freshman guard Jaylen Nowell said of Carter and his dunks. “I saw that coming and didn’t know it’d go down that way, but, hey. That was one of the best dunks I’ve seen in person.”
Nowell’s comments came after Carter added to his growing highlight reel in Washington’s 68-51 win over California on Saturday at Haas Pavilion.
The Huskies were in the early stages of a 16-2 run in the second half. Carter was near mid-court when he came off the wing, took a few steps and started his ascent.
Golden Bears forward Cole Welle tried serving as a deterrent, but Carter didn’t care. He cocked back his right arm in mid-air and then threw down a dunk that may have been his most impressive to date.
Or at least it appeared that way considering how Hopkins and Nowell reacted it to during and after the game.
“That’s not normal,” Hopkins said of Carter’s dunk. “But he’s not normal.”