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All due respect to Kevin Durant and the other ballers from Prince George’s County, recently celebrated in the Showtime documentary “In the Water,” but the District’s history of great basketball dates back to … well, damn near its creation, back to when Edwin B. Henderson introduced the game to the city, to the Washington 12 Streeters at the Colored YMCA more than a century ago, and to Howard University soon after. Henderson, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee in 2013, learned the game at Harvard in 1904 from the inventor of the game, James Naismith.
Carr, now 72 and the longtime TV analyst for the Cleveland Cavaliers, was among the best to play in the city, for Mackin Catholic, and was among the many local players who went on to star at Notre Dame, where he put up ludicrous numbers in three NCAA Tournament appearances. The first overall pick in the 1971 NBA Draft, Carr played 10 years in the pros, helping lift the Cavs to the Eastern Conference finals in five seasons. Now it’s Carr who’s being lifted, as one of this year’s inductees into the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame – an honor long overdue.
“I was a sophomore (at Mackin) when he was a senior, and I went to every game,” said Butch McAdams, the longtime head coach at Maret, and a local radio and podcast host for nearly 30 years. “Austin was a four-year varsity player. He was just special from the very beginning. He was like a perimeter version of AD (fellow local great Adrian Dantley) – there was no shake and bake, no crossovers. He was just so efficient, and he could shoot the lights out. I think the reason you don’t hear it is that, unfortunately, he had a rash of injuries at the NBA, and couldn’t reach his full potential at the NBA level as he did in high school and college … if he were playing in the era of the 3-point arc, I think you could conservatively – conservatively – add another 15 points (per game) to his average.”
Maybe it’s because Mackin, on California Street in Northwest D.C. and a beacon for middle-class black families, closed in 1989, shuttered by the Archdiocese of Washington that year. Or, maybe it’s because Carr’s Notre Dame teams, though good – the Irish went 61-24 in Carr’s three varsity seasons there, freshmen being ineligible to play for the varsity in those years – never got past the regional semifinals in the NCAA Tournament. Or maybe it’s because Carr went to a bad Cleveland team in the pros and was indeed injured a lot by the time it became a good, but never dominant, team in the East. But Carr’s body of work sometimes gets lost when discussing the best ever to play from here. “When you’re that long ago, people forget,” Carr said.
Allie Clifton does not yet know if, when LeBron James splits a double team and dunks on the Suns tonight, she’ll belt out “throw the hammer down!” The man in whose seat she will sit, Austin Carr, definitely would. But Carr will miss the Cavs-Suns game because of funeral arrangements for his brother, Roderick, who died earlier this month. So Clifton, 30, will serve as the color analyst on Fox Sports Ohio’s broadcast, next to play-by-play man Fred McLeod.