Blazejowski. Colasurdo. Schmidt. Wilson. Machin. Tobie. Aquino. Sire. Brown.
And now, Nickie Carter.
After a prolific junior season, the standout guard became the 10th player in Montclair State women’s basketball history to be selected to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American team.
“I was on the phone with my mom and I started getting tagged in stories on Instagram,” Carter said. “So I’m like, ‘what’s going on?’ Then, I see the photo of me and it said ‘All-American’ at the bottom. And I was like, ‘no way.’ And I just started crying. That’s been a goal of mine since before I came to [Montclair State].”
For Carter, the honor was a lifelong dream come true, but to her coaches, it was only a matter of time.
“When I visited here in high school, I remember [head coach Karin] Harvey telling me, ‘you come here, we’ll make you an All-American.’ So, for it to happen was unreal,” Carter said.
In her freshman year, Carter got her career started on the right foot, leading the team in scoring at 17.0 points per game. She helped propel the Red Hawks to the best record in the conference and a spot in the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
She would go on to become just the third player in program history to be named D3hoops.com Atlantic Region Rookie of the Year.
Harvey knew from the very beginning that something like this was bound to happen.
“We knew when we recruited [Carter] that she was going to be a special player,” Harvey said. “Her scoring ability is quite different than any player I have had in my program.”
After her breakout freshman season, Carter seemed primed to ascend even higher in her sophomore year. However, amidst a shortened, 10-game season, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, she faced many roadblocks — both physical and mental, as she worked back from an off-season injury.
Carter only started one game, averaging 8.6 points per game. Despite her struggles, the Red Hawks made it all the way to the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship, where they would fall to New Jersey City University, a game in which Carter delivered her only 20-point output of the season.
With the graduation of NJAC player of the year and the Red Hawks’ latest WBCA All-American, Taylor Brown, Carter needed to regain her freshman form.
“[Brown] led by example,” Carter said. “She pushed me to want to be better and she had so much confidence in me, I didn’t want to let her down.”
The Red Hawks certainly didn’t start the way they had hoped, losing four of their first five games, their worst start since the 2010-11 season. It coincided with Carter finding her footing. In those five games, she netted just 10.2 points per game, shooting 34% from the field and 19% from three.
“Mentally I was still like trying to build my confidence back up,” Carter said. “So that was a little bit tough, and you could see that in the beginning of the season. I really just needed to get out of my head. That was the most important thing. I just started playing basketball and I think that’s what made all the difference.”
Once Carter had that figured out, everything changed. Over the final 19 games of the season, she averaged 18.8 points per game, shooting 41% overall and 40% from three. She finished the year second in the conference in scoring and field goal percentage, culminating in her second career All-NJAC First-Team nod.
She amassed two 30-point performances, including the second-highest individual scoring game in program history (34 vs. Rutgers-Newark on Feb. 9), and seven games with 20-plus points. She finished the season just 67 points short of the 1,000-point plateau, and with two years of eligibility remaining, she seems certain to become the 22nd player in program history to reach the mark.
Assistant coach and former two-time All-American for the Red Hawks, Katie Sire, said it came as no surprise to see Carter have such success.
“Becoming an All-American is not something that comes easy,” Sire said. “It takes a lot of commitment in the off-season, constantly putting in extra time, showing up consistently on a day-to-day basis and a whole lot of mental toughness. [Carter] embodies what a true ‘gym rat’ is and is constantly elevating her game to the next level. I see a lot of similarities in myself and her and look forward to continuing helping her grow as a player.”
As the list of accomplishments continues to grow for Carter, Harvey says there is just one more hill she must climb.
“The biggest thing left for [Carter] is to win a championship and go to the NCAA Tournament,” Harvey said. “I believe we will be there in the next two seasons and that will be the exclamation point on [Carter’s] career.”