Point guard transfer eager to win and to show doubters he belongs.
|| Getting to Know Archive
NORMAN, Okla. -- Growing up, Carl Blair says people told him he'd never make it to this level. They said he wasn't good enough, that he'd wind up flipping burgers after high school.
Now a point guard on Oklahoma's basketball team, Blair has proved those doubters wrong. The proving process is not over for him, though. Now the 6-2, 214-pounder is driven to show that he belongs.
From Houston, Texas, Blair played last year as a freshman for the University of New Orleans and averaged 9.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 31.0 minutes a contest. His game improved as the season progressed and over the last eight games he averaged 13.8 points and 4.6 assists. He even produced a triple-double (13 points, 10 boards and 11 assists), one of just nine Division I players to do so last year.
With New Orleans beginning a multi-year reclassification process to NCAA Division III status, Blair was allowed to transfer and play immediately. We sat down with him this week to learn about his background, find out why he settled on Oklahoma and to learn more about the chip on his shoulder that drives him daily.
A Q&A with Blair follows below and a separate video interview may be viewed in the player above.
Q: Can you describe how you've spent your summer and the type of work you've been doing here at Lloyd Noble Center?
A: "My summer's pretty much been about working hard. We've been lifting weights a lot. I haven't really done a lot of lifting and running in previous summers. I really think it's going to help me. It's something new to me. It kind of took me a couple weeks getting used to waking up early, lifting and then coming back later to do boxing or Pilates. But now I'm used to it, so it's good."
Q: Did you know Coach Capel prior to the end of this past season when you decided to transfer?
A: "I talked to him a couple times when I was in high school my senior year in Mississippi. Once I knew I would have to go to prep school, we didn't really talk much. But there was a relationship there and I knew him. In the spring we talked and I felt comfortable with everything. He's a cool guy and I felt I'd love to play for him."
Q: Why did you settle on Oklahoma?
A: "It'll be good exposure for me to show what I can do on a national level. I want to prove to everybody that I was supposed to be here. I had to start at a lower level in the Sun Belt Conference, but now I'm just ready to prove to everyone what I can do. This is going to be a great chance to do that."
Q: What people are you referring to when you say you have something to prove?
A: "Basically people I've known growing up. By the grace of God I'm here, but I'm not supposed to be if you ask certain people. They didn't think I'd make it this far. I'm here to show everybody what I can do. I know what I'm going to do, I'm confident in all my abilities. I just want to prove people wrong and to show kids that it doesn't matter what people say when you're younger. People told me I was going to flip burgers out of high school, all kinds of stuff. Said I'd never play basketball in college, that type of thing. I just want to show kids to keep working and never give up."
Q: Talk about your freshman year at New Orleans in terms of how you played and grew as a player.
A: "At the beginning, the speed of the game was tough. I was thrown out there at the beginning and played a lot of minutes. I had to pick things up fast, and I probably didn't do as good a job as I wanted to. But as the year went on I got more confident and more comfortable. I knew what to expect and everything came more easily to me. My game got a lot better by managing the game. I worked a lot at certain things. I got a triple-double and I improved my whole game as far as rebounding, passing and scoring, and bringing everything to the table each game."
Q: What do you remember about your triple-double?
A: "Actually, before the game I was kind of excited. I mean, I had this feeling. I was just happy to play that day. I wasn't expecting to get one that day or anything. I didn't even know I got it until after the game and my coach told me in the locker room. It was crazy because I was telling people I was going to get one (at some point during the year). But it was still kind of unexpected. I got it in like the fifth game of the season. It was just an exciting thing that I wanted to do like Jason Kidd, (Rajon) Rondo, Magic (Johnson), all those guys that got triple-doubles a lot. I love to rebound and push the ball. That's special for a point guard to be able to do that and I really try to focus on that."
Q: You're pretty thick for a point guard. Do you try to use your strength as an advantage, and how do you do that?
A: "I do. I can post up. I can execute well in the paint. A lot of guards probably get knocked off, but I can finish, get and-ones. I just use it to my advantage. I've been a little bit stronger than just about every point guard I've played against; at least bigger. So it's always been an advantage for me. And I've got speed to go with it. So it helps when guys try to bump into you and they bounce off. It makes the game easier for me."
Q: How would you describe your game to people who've never seen you play?
A: "I'm a pass-first point guard. I take pride in making people better and winning. I don't think anybody who plays wants to lose. That's just something I have instilled in me. I want to win anything I play -- ping pong, video games, anything. I hate to lose. I think that's the main thing. I have a toughness and I want to win every time I'm out there."
Q: What are your one or two biggest strengths?
A: "I like to say I can do a lot of everything. I'm just trying to be a complete player. At this point I know I can pass real well, rebound and push the ball. Just bring different things to the table."
Q: In what areas do you feel you most need to improve?
A: "I think I can always improve my shot. You're never a perfect jump shooter and you can always improve your percentages. I shot 82 percent last year from the free throw line. I get to the line a lot by driving to the basket and drawing fouls. That's a strength. I really want to keep improving my outside shot and my free throws."
Q: You played against Andrew Fitzgerald when you were in prep school in Maine. What do you remember about those games and do you have a good relationship with him now?
A: "Yeah, we're close friends. I remember those games. We beat them both times we played. Drew's in way better shape than he was then. He's dropped a lot of weight. He was still good, obviously, but I just think he's more explosive now and has improved his game a lot."
Q: How would you describe the team's chemistry this summer?
A: "Nobody's selfish on this team. Everybody plays unselfish. I just think it's going to take a little time to jell completely because we have so many new guys to mesh with the old guys. Every day we just try to hoop and mix it up, build chemistry and get something going. We might get a two-man game going with me and Nick (Thompson). Drew and Cade (Davis) might try to work together and build a relationship on the court. It's so you can know what somebody's going to do without looking at them. It just makes the team better."
Q: What's your major and do you have any idea what you want to do once your playing career is finished?
A: "I don't have a major yet, but I know I want to go into the business world. Once basketball's done, I probably want to go back and coach. I love basketball. I think that will always be open for me, but I'd like to own a business like a restaurant or a club or something. Along with coaching, just put my hands in different things."