A few weeks ago, Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe hosted Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor on their Instagram Live show “A Touch More”. The conversation went on for more than four hours, as the women discussed a wide range of basketball topics, including playing in Russia, the future of UConn basketball, and taunting rookies.
During the show, Taurasi asked Bird who will be the best player in the 2020 draft class. Bird named the No. 4 pick, Texas A&M-product Chennedy Carter. While Taurasi and Taylor picked the top two draftees Sabrina Ionescu and Satou Sabally, both women agreed with Bird’s take: Carter has the potential to have the best career out of the entire draft class.
Carter hails from Texas A&M, where she was coached by Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee Gary Blair. During her years as an Aggie, Carter made waves in the basketball community as she was named a three-time All-American and three-time All-SEC First Team selection. She is the first Texas A&M player to achieve this feat.
After a historic three years, Carter chose to forgo her senior season and declare for the WNBA draft. She left College Station with her name etched all over the program record book, finishing in the top 10 of multiple categories. The Mansfield, Texas native ended her collegiate career just seven points shy of the all-time scoring leader (1,983 points). If not for COVID-19, Carter would have easily taken the No. 1 spot.
Carter’s historical career led her to being the highest draft pick in program history at No. 4 to Atlanta.
Carter doesn’t shy away when the spotlight is on. ‘Hollywood’, Carter’s nickname and Twitter handle, plays her best basketball when in high pressure situations.
Team USA Exhibition
Back in November, the USA Basketball Women’s National Team made a stop in College Station for an exhibition match against Carter and the then-ranked No. 6 Aggies. Carter did what anyone nicknamed ‘Hollywood’ would do under the bright lights: she balled out.
Carter broke the 23-year old record for most points scored by a collegiate student-athlete against the US National Team with 34. The previous record was held by former WNBA player Michi Atkins, who tallied 32 points in 1996 against Team USA while at Texas Tech.
Carter was able to get shots up against the best in the world from all around the floor. She made space for herself and created scoring opportunities for her teammates. The 5-7 guard came up big on the other side of the court as well, blocking shots from 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier (6-1) and WNBA All-Star Nneka Ogwumike (6-2).
Though this game was just an exhibition match, Carter treated it like the NCAA Championship. Her confidence and skill proved that she is able to compete at a high level with Olympians and All-Stars. After the game, Team USA head coach Cheryl Reeve spoke on Carter’s ability to perform best in big time moments.“We anticipated that Chennedy [Carter] would be really geeked up and rise up in big moments,” said Reeve. “That’s sort of what she does. She relishes these opportunities.”
The Big Dance
Some of Carter’s best collegiate games came during the NCAA Tournament.
In the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, A&M and Marquette were locked in a back and forth battle. Throughout the night, Carter was double and tripled teamed by the Golden Eagles. Trailing by two with 36.2 seconds left, Carter dashed towards the rim but ran into multiple Marquette defenders. Instead of throwing away the play, Carter was able to adjust and complete a perfect pass to teammate Shambria Washington, who buried a trey to take the lead.
Though she just made the game saving play, Carter didn’t get caught up in the moment. She switched right into defense and stole the ball from Marquette to secure the win. Carter waits until the final buzzer goes off to celebrate, but until then, she’s locked in.
In situations where a comeback may be far-fetched, Carter creates hope.
During the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the Aggies found themselves down 17 points early in the third quarter against DePaul. Carter, a freshman at the time, kickstarted the team on a comeback. With under three seconds left in the game, Carter came up the court, viewed the field, and sank a trey. She had room to take a few steps forward for the two-pointer or to attack the rim, but Carter wanted the win, not the tie.
In that game, Carter set the program record for points scored in the NCAA Tournament record with 37. She was responsible for every bucket on the Aggie’s 9-2 closing run.
Another strength of Carter’s is her resilience. Last season, Carter missed seven games due to injury. In her first game back, she led the team in scoring (18 points) to help take down Vanderbilt. The following game, Carter recorded a season-high 37 points and led the team to a road win over Tennessee. Some players are hesitant and slow to transition back to playing after an injury. Carter, however, jumped right back into elite competition.
Carter looked to lead A&M to a third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance in 2020 before the season was cut short due to COVID-19. In her career, Carter scored 26 or more points in all six of her NCAA Tournament games and is the second player in history to lead the Tournament in scoring in back-to-back seasons. Carter ranks third in NCAA Tournament scoring average (31.0 ppg) among players with at least five games played. The top two spots are held by WNBA MVPs Elena Delle Donne (34.4 ppg, Delaware) and Sheryl Swoopes (31.7 ppg, Texas Tech).
Perfect fit in the ATL
Last season, the Dream finished at the bottom of the league with an 8-26 record. Atlanta ranked last in points per game (71.2), field goal percentage (37.1), and three-point percentage (29.0), as well as 11th in assists with 15.7 per game and 10th in steals with 6.6 per game.
This offseason, the Dream made some big changes to their roster. They traded Brittney Sykes to LA for young star Kalani Brown and picked up Courtney Williams after a career-best season with the Sun.
Carter, along with Williams, will be able to improve the Dream’s shooting. Out of all the 2020 draftees, Carter ranked the highest with 22.5 points per game during her career. She has a diverse shooting ability, making 43.1 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from behind the arc. Carter scored in double figures in 87 of her 88 games, including 62 straight.
The combination of Carter’s talent and character will be a perfect fit for the new, young Atlanta team. She is coachable and will continue to grow from third year Atlanta head coach Nicki Collen’s system.
“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Chennedy and her family to the ATL,” Collen said after the draft. “Chennedy is a gifted scorer, possessing great speed, skill and strength with the ball in her hands. While she split time at the guard positions in college, we believe Chennedy will thrive as an up-tempo point guard in the WNBA. She is an underrated passer with the ability to attack the lane to create opportunities for herself and her teammates. We believe Chennedy has a chance with time and commitment to be a special player in Atlanta.”
Chennedy ‘Hollywood’ Carter has the key tools that any athlete needs to become a star: confidence, skill, and resilience. She has the right foundation and the right team to set her up for an incredible career in the W.
The 2020 WNBA season is currently on hold due to COVID-19. When it eventually begins, Chennedy Carter should be at the top of the Rookie of the Year watch lists and don’t be surprised if she wins the award.