This weekend, the MSU Sports Hall of Fame inducts five new members. Each day this week, we’ll be highlighting one of those individuals in this space.
Scott Stricklin can’t help smiling when he sees Tyson Carter on campus, the long, skinny freshman sharpshooter preparing for his first season on the basketball team. Now the Athletic Director at Mississippi State, Stricklin remembers when he was a student at MSU over two decades ago and a similar-looking freshman basketball player got to school – Greg Carter, Tyon’s dad.
“I was in school with Greg,” Stricklin said, “and it’s so funny seeing Tyson now, because I remember Greg being this really skilled, thin player who came in with a big freshman class.”
The story of the son and his freshman class has yet to be written, but the tale of the father has been told for the last 25 years. This weekend, Carter’s career will be celebrated when he is enshrined in the MSU Sports Hall of Fame, an earned honor for the man who was recently selected to MSU basketball’s All-Century Team.
An All-SEC and honorable mention All-American as a senior, Carter ranks in MSU’s all-time lists in points (1,123), rebounds (611), steals (115) and blocks (53). His numbers are great for those interested in such things, and his careers as a player at MSU and now the head coach of Starkville High School boys basketball have been littered with successes and highlights. However, it is the accomplishment he’s the most remembered for that he, too, remembers most fondly.
In 1991, at the end of his four years at MSU, Carter realized the goal he and his teammates had given themselves years before – they won the SEC Championship.
“It stands out a lot,” Carter said of that memory. “Through four years of college ball, 23 years of coaching, it stands out more than any of them.”
When Carter initially began at MSU, he was one of seven signees in that first class, and at the time, he considered himself a defender and rebounder, his prowess on the offensive side coming later in his career. The state of the program had been up and down for the last couple decades, but Carter and his new teammates went in believing that they could change the fortunes of MSU basketball.
“There was a large group of us that signed as freshmen together,” he recalled. “There were seven of us, and our goal was to win an SEC Championship by our senior year.”
They took baby steps, at first, experiencing some growing pains along the way. But as Carter progressed, so too did the team. And by the end, they achieved their dream.
Carter wasn’t the leading scorer for that team as a senior, nor was he the guy opposing coaches and players were worried about the most. He wasn’t even the one fans were most excited to get an autograph from after the games. But as Stricklin remembers it, that suited Carter just fine. In fact, it worked perfectly for him.
“He was the glue guy, in my opinion, on that 1991 title team,” Stricklin said. “He was the silent assassin, if you will. You were paying attention to Cameron Burns or Tony Watts or one of the other guys that were so effective. Greg Carter was the guy that was just Steady Eddie. You look up and he has 20 points and 10 boards and got every key loose ball and played good defense. To me, he was the epitome of that team.”
Carter was named first-team All-SEC that year, but it was a similar honor that likely described his value best – the SEC all-defensive team.
Not say he couldn’t shoot, of course. Carter actually led the team in field goal percentage as a senior, hitting 56.5 percent of his shots, and his versatility as a scorer, getting baskets both inside the paint and behind the arc, helped make him such a dangerous player for opposing teams.
The hard part for him now is believing he was ever actually that good at basketball.
“It’s been really in the last few years that I’ve been able to get perspective on not just what the team did, but what individuals did, all of us, and what I did as an individual,” he said. “When you start getting older, you look at those things like, ‘Wow, did I really do all that?’”
Carter confessed he often has the same reaction as his players when they look him up and discover how great his career at MSU was.
“Whenever they see my name in the record books they’re always like, ‘Coach, you did that? You were pretty good.’ So you kind of end up looking at yourself in the same way,” Carter said.
Of course, one of his players knew how great his coach was the minute he walked into his first practice – his son Tyson. As early as middle school, Tyson was watching tapes from the 1991 championship season and studying a highlight reel of his dad’s play from that year.
The rest of the guys on the team were allowed to discover on their own, but Coach Carter made very sure to show his son what his old man was capable of in college.
Lining the walls of the concourse at Humphrey Coliseum, home of MSU basketball, stand trophy cases and displays honoring the members of the Hall of Fame. Starting this week, Tyson will be playing in the same building where his father is enshrined.
Funnily enough, Carter has memories of seeing those same sights 25 years ago.
“I remember walking through The Hump and seeing the display of all the people who were in the Hall of Fame,” he said, “and I never thought or dreamed that I would end up in there.”