April 18, 2013 9:42:23 AM
STARKVILLE -- Carnail Minor has done it once.
Now that the Starkville Academy senior has earned a chance to play at the next level, he intends to show he can do it again.
The improvement Minor made from his junior to his senior season at Starkville Academy paved the way for a special day Wednesday, as he signed a scholarship to play for the East Central Community College men's basketball team.
"In the summertime, I went to the gym every day to get better," Minor said. "I worked on my ballhandling and got stronger and got faster."
Minor's work helped him play a key role as a shooter and do-it-all player who helped lead the Volunteers to a 17-16 season, the program's first winning season in five years. Starkville Academy also won two games in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, Division II tournament and advanced to the Class AAA overall State tournament, helping it achieve postseason success for the first time in nine seasons.
Minor paced the Volunteers in scoring (14 points per game) and rebounding. He also shot 73 percent from the free-throw line and averaged 2.2 steals per game.
"He was so versatile and did so many things for us," Starkville Academy boys basketball coach Mark Alexander said. "Everybody looks at Carnail and thinks, 'He is a good shooter.' That is probably his best attribute, but he did so many other things. He can rebound the basketball, he can pass the ball, he is a very good defender, and I have said this all year, he is probably the smartest player I have ever coached. I know he gets that from his dad, who is a coach. I didn't have to worry about telling Carnail where to go on the floor or what to do because he already knew it. He is one of those guys that an see the game one or two steps ahead. I think that is one of his best attributes, his basketball IQ."
Minor said he knew he had to work hard at his game following a junior season in which Alexander acknowledged Minor played out of position at point guard due to injuries. Minor said his confidence grew once he did the work to hone his game. He also hoped the investment would pay off in an offer to play basketball in college. His efforts were rewarded Wednesday.
"My senior year, I felt I accomplished a lot and I think I did very good," Minor said. "I have a lot of work to do (to compete at the next level). The best players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant had to work hard at it to go to the next level."
Minor said he likes up-tempo style ECCC plays and hopes he will be able to contribute as a two guard. He prepares for the next step knowing it will be a big jump, but he takes with him the confidence to know he has done it once and he can do it again.
"The college level is a lot different from the high school level, so I have to work hard and get in the weight room and get a lot stronger and faster," Minor said. "It is going to be very hard, and I have to work hard at it."
Alexander was pleased to be a part of an effort that saw the Starkville Academy boys basketball team send its second player to college. Minor is believed to be the first player from the program to go to college on a scholarship since Matthew Rye went to play at East Mississippi C.C. in 1995.
"I think he got a lot better," Alexander said. "He was able to move to shooting guard, his natural position, and we knew he was going to thrive, and he did thrive.
"He showed out and had a good senior year, and people like East Central took notice of that. If he had not improved and made that jump from junior to senior year, we probably wouldn't be here today."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.