In his first two high school seasons, Isaac Carr earned a reputation as a lights-out shooter for Central Catholic's boys basketball team.
So when the 6-foot-4 incoming junior drove the baseline and rose up for an emphatic dunk over a defender in the Section 7 Tournament in Arizone in late June, it raised more than a few eyebrows.
“I knew I could do it, I was just trying to get the right opportunity in games,” Carr said. “In open gyms, I've started dunking more. I can use my athleticism more like that.”
The dunk got the attention of Rams coach David Blue.
“It was pretty impressive,” Blue said. “Of course everyone thinks of him as a shooter, but he can do so much more.”
It was an illustration of how Carr's game has blossomed in recent months. Since the end of last season, he has been working hard on getting stronger, and the results are obvious.
“Everyone is seeing his athleticism and physicality and how much he's worked on his game, and his body,” Blue said. “Recruiting just went to another level for him. If he keeps going at the same rate, there's no telling where he could finish in regards to a college.”
College offers poured in after the Section 7 tournament, where Carr averaged about 25 points per game as Central Catholic went 4-0 to win its bracket in the elite event.
Carr, who received an offer from Portland as a freshman, is now up to about a dozen offers. His list includes Oregon State and Oregon, which stepped up its pursuit after coach Dana Altman watched him play in Arizona.
“That meant everything to me,” Carr said of the offer from the Ducks. “That's just really rewarding, especially after you work hard, and then you start to get better. It's like motivation to keep going, to try to get more stuff.”
Carr started as a freshman at Central Catholic on a team loaded with elite athletes. It took him a while to adjust to the new level, but heading into his sophomore year, he was ready for a much bigger role alongside Marley Zeller, a 6-5 guard who will be a senior this year.
“With everybody gone, it was a new group with Isaac and Marley,” Blue said. “It was like, 'OK, this is our team now.' He sort of took on much more of a scoring role. We needed that from him. He flourished in that. He definitely can do that at a high level.”
Carr was on fire in four games at the Les Schwab Invitational in December, hitting 18 of 35 from three-point range and averaging 21.3 points. He finished the season averaging 14.8 points, shooting 36.8 percent from deep and 82.8 percent on free throws.
“A lot of teams were being more physical, trying to deny him the ball,” Blue said. “That was an adjustment for him. But I think that inspired him to get into the weight room and just work.”
Carr has added about 10 pounds of muscle and is up to 175. It has helped open up his game.
“Being stronger is a huge part of it because it helps bring you confidence,” Carr said. “It's not as easy for a defender to bump you and make it difficult.
“I think I've definitely surprised a lot of people. That's one thing I've heard from coaches, just being able to do things other than shoot. It's like, 'Yeah, I knew you could shoot, but I didn't know you could do this.'”
Blue said that Carr still looks thin, but has a different mentality.
“He's more physical, more aggressive, more explosive,” Blue said. “He's a different player than he was last year. He's a physically different person right now. He's just in a zone. I'm really excited to see how it translates for us this year.”
The Rams, who reached the 6A quarterfinals last year before falling to West Linn 49-45, believe they have the makings of a state contender. Not only has Carr elevated his game in the offseason, but so has Zeller, who averaged a team-high 19.0 points as a junior.
Recruiting also blew up or Zeller after he averaged about 25 points in the Section 7 Tournament. Blue said that Zeller has picked up about 10 college offers since the end of last season, including schools such as Portland State, Pepperdine, Florida Gulf Coast and UC Santa Barbara.
“He's just a bucket-getter,” Blue said.
With Carr, Zeller and the Paschal brothers – junior guard Nazier and sophomore guard Zamir, who are recovering from knee injuries – the Rams have a high ceiling.
“If we're able to come together and play as a team, and play our roles the right way, I don't think anybody can beat us,” Carr said.