Canadian-born hockey star Mark Messier spent a quarter of a century playing in the National Hockey League.
He starred for the Edmonton Oilers, the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks and once said that the only pressure he’s under is the pressure he puts on himself.
Andraya Carter is not Canadian born and she hasn’t spent a half century doing anything because she’s only 15 years old.
She’s still just a high school star — for the Buford girls’ basketball team — yet she also once said that the only pressure she’s under is the pressure she puts on herself.
It’s rare that wisdom is a usable word when describing a teenager, but there isn’t a lot that is normal about Carter.
She was noticed by college coaches Sue Semrau (Florida State) and Andy Landers (Georgia) as an eighth grader and in the two years since, has been noticed by everyone.
“It’s kind of a good feeling to know that unless I totally mess up my life, my future’s set,” Carter said. “I’m so lucky and so thankful to God. I’ve worked to improve on the skills he gave me, and he’s made sure doors opened for me.”
She’s got the type of skill set that’s jaw-dropping. She’s quick, defensive-minded, can jump out of the gym, is a team-first player and could, if not for two of the aforementioned qualities, score at will night in and night out.
But it’s clear when you hear stories like Tennessee’s Pat Summit offering her a scholarship after watching a game in which she scored only five points, that Carter’s skill set is no longer the real draw.
The wisdom is. The maturity is. The humility is.
“Not making the USA team (last summer) grounded me,” Carter said. “But even if I didn’t have that, getting offers makes me want to work harder because when I get to college, I don’t want them to see the same player they offered a scholarship to.”
The drive is the real draw.
She’s played in front of hundreds of college coaches since middle school, they’ve known the basketball potential, they’ve known the dynamic game that already exists, but they’re still coming to see her.
She hates when she doesn’t play well, but not because they’re still coming to see her.
It’s because of her wisdom, maturity, humility and drive.
“Pressure isn’t on her anymore,” Buford coach Gene Durden said. “She’s played in front of so many coaches that she’s immune to it.
“What gets ‘Draya, is when she feels like she’s let her team down.”
Sitting across from Carter in Durden’s office, the question of pressures felt in the recruiting process came up.
She paused, thought, and then said, “Sometimes I’ll mess up and think, ‘Gosh, I really wish these coaches weren’t here.’”
“But it’s my job for my team to play hard and play the same game day in and day out and if the coaches like it, they like it; if they don’t, they don’t,” Carter said. “You see, as much as I’m trying to impress them, they’re trying to impress me. They aren’t raising the goals any higher or changing anything, and I know that if I play hard for my team, that’s impressive and you’re always going to do something right playing hard.”
Wisdom, maturity, humility and drive: Carter’s real skill set and the reason the coaches are still coming to see her.