Dec. 20, 1999
by Peter Stuhldreher
After the early signing period last year, Notre Dame basketball had high
hopes for the future due to the commitment of a young man from Horsham,
Pa., named Matt Carroll. Carroll arrived on the Notre Dame campus with a
great outside touch and a lot of expectations. For Carroll, this year is
about adjusting to college basketball and beginning to fulfill some of
those expectations, but for Notre Dame, the future is now.
Carroll came to Notre Dame having already accomplished much on the
basketball court. He attended Hatboro-Horsham High School where he earned
much early recognition. He was the team's most valuable player and an
all-city and all-conference selection in each of his four years. He earned
all-state honors for three years and was team captain his junior and senior
seasons. In his senior season for Hatboro-Horsham, he averaged 26.5 points
a game on his way to his first All-American selection. In addition, he was
named Big School (Class 3-A and 4-A) Player of the Year by the Associated
Press, marking the first time in Pennsylvania basketball history that
prestigious honor has been presented to the same player two consecutive
years. Carroll credits much of his success to his father, grandfather and
high school coach.
"My father offered me a lot of support and confidence during my high
school career," Carroll says. "My grandfather and high school coach were
always pushing me to succeed with their caring, yet critical evaluation of
This past summer, Carroll kept playing basketball and continued
receiving honors. He began by scoring 19 points in the Magic Johnson
Roundball Classic and then playing in the Capital Classic, two high-profile
Later in the summer, Carroll received one of the biggest thrills of his
basketball career when he was selected to represent the United States in
the 1999 FIBA Junior World Championships in Lisbon, Portugal. Carroll had
the opportunity to play with a number of college superstars, including
DePaul's Bobby Simmons and Michael Wright of Arizona, gaining some valuable
experience. Carroll saw action in seven games averaging 2.3 points, as the
United States claimed the silver medal.
"It was one of my favorite times on the basketball court," Carroll
said. "Playing against the competition I played against definitely helped
me. When you are playing against the best guys in the world, that boosts
your confidence even more. Making a run for the gold medal, even though we
wound up with the silver, was a great experience."
The experience also helped Carroll prepare for the jump to a higher
level of play that he was going to experience at Notre Dame.
"The level of play at the World Junior Championships was equivalent
to the college game."
With this type of resume, it is easy to see why Notre Dame was
extremely optimistic about the future of the basketball program when
Carroll committed to attend Notre Dame on November 11, 1998. However, the
transition to college basketball did not start out as smoothly as Carroll
hoped when former coach John MacLeod, who had recruited him, was replaced
by Kansas assistant coach Matt Doherty. Carroll was forced to reconsider
his commitment to play for the Irish as he debated whether or not he should
go to a college where the coach had recruited him.
"Luckily, Coach Doherty had recruited me at Kansas and I got a
chance to know him," Carroll said. "Aside from basketball, I loved Notre
Dame so the decision to stay was easy."
"I tried to recruit Matt to Kansas, not realizing that he wanted to
stay toward the East Coast." Doherty said. "He's a good shooter and a tough
kid. I do respect Matt because he is a hard worker and knows how to play."
Since his decision to stay, Carroll has been working harder than
ever to adjust to college life and college basketball.
"At first, my mind was going in a thousand different directions
trying to remember all the plays and where I was supposed to be," Carroll
said reflecting on his first day of practice. "Now at each practice I am
getting better and improving. Hopefully, it will continue to get better
Carroll got off to a good start as one afternoon the Irish players
were killing time by holding a three-point shooting contest. The usual
winner, sophomore Troy Murphy, stepped onto the court and made 46 out of 50
shots. The scored lasted but a few minutes as Carroll, who bears a striking
resemblance to Murphy, only shorter, drained 48 out of 50, turning
everyone's head in the process.
"I started talking trash to Matt after I made 46 (three pointers),
but he got me," Murphy said. "He is good, very good."
Carroll is obviously getting better with every game this season as
he gains more experience and confidence. After only playing nine minutes
against Ohio State in the season opener, Carroll exploded for 16 points on
7-for-9 shooting, including two three pointers, against Siena. After
five-point games against St. Francis and Arizona, Carroll recorded 11
points against Maryland in the NIT third-place game at Madison Square
Garden. Carroll then scored 18 points against Vanderbilt on 8-of-15
shooting and followed that with 13 points, including three treys, against
Valparaiso. He then exploded for a career-high 22 points on 7-of-11
shooting, including three treys, Saturday versus VMI. He also dished out
five assists against the Keydets showing off his "overall" game. For the
season, Carroll is third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.4 points a
game in 23.4 minutes of action.
"Matt has a deadly shot," junior point guard Martin Ingelsby said.
"He is going to come in a play a lot of minutes for us. Plus he is a
Philly-boy (like Ingelsby and senior point guard Jimmy Dillon), so you know
he is going to play a lot."
Carroll feels his role on the team this year is to score, as well
as play good defense against opposing guards. He also needs to help get the
ball inside to guys like Murphy. However, the most important thing to
Carroll is not personal statistics, but team success. He feels Doherty's
goals for the team provide good direction and are being accepted by all
"We are all on the same page and have the same goals in mind for
now and the future."
Off the court, Carroll has gone through a period of adjustment to the
rigors of being a student-athlete at a top national university. At first
the adjustment was difficult, but hard work and determination paid off for
Carroll, not only on the basketball court, but away from it as well. What
seemed overwhelming at first, now seems more manageable as Carroll is
trying to find a balance between school work and basketball.
"Things are getting better as I am learning the system and managing my
time better," Carroll said. "It is much harder that I had anticipated."
This year has been about adjusting for Carroll. Adjusting to a new team,
a new level of play and a new school environment. He came in carrying the
burdens of high expectations and has responded by adapting well to Notre
Dame and college basketball.
"You go through a lot of adversity playing at a big-time college level
... and I have faced more failure in the past couple of months than I have
in my entire life," Carroll said.
At first Carroll had difficulty dealing with these failures, but he
says that maintaining his self esteem and confidence has been the key to
turning those past failures into his present success. He wants to work hard
towards developing as a solid player on the college level and he realizes
that a big part of that development will be mental.
"One thing I have learned is, how you deal with adversity and
handle it, can determine how well you do in life."
While Matt Carroll is dealing with that adversity and adjusting to
college life and college basketball, Doherty and the rest of the Irish fans
keep thinking the future is now.