Going into Montclair State University’s women’s basketball team’s annual holiday tournament, head coach Karin Harvey knew that her team needed a spark. Despite a 6-4 record at the time, she knew that her squad, particularly one player, could raise her game to a higher level.
Freshman guard Nickie Carter did just that. She talked about how Coach Harvey set high expectations for her.
“It was the practice before the tournament in which [Coach Harvey] told me that I could be doing more. She said she expected more out of me as a player,” Carter said.
Carter certainly wasn’t playing terrible before the tournament began; she averaged an impressive clip of 12.8 points per game at the time. If the team had any hopes of reclaiming the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title, the freshman guard would have to play a bigger role for her squad than a normal freshman would.
This began during the tournament, where Carter would post back to back 20-point performances en route to a holiday tournament title and the tournament MVP. Since then, her scoring average has increased to 16.8 and her turnovers have been cut down significantly. The Red Hawks are now 14-4 on the season, with Carter leading the charge throughout the eight-game winning streak.
Carter’s biggest improvement statistically throughout the season was her field goal percentage, which has dramatically increased from about 30% to roughly 40%, despite the increase in productivity in recent weeks. She is also shooting around 31% from the three-point line, making Carter a deadly scorer from just about anywhere on the court.
Coach Harvey commented on her impressive play.
“She knows that her job is to score, and she’s embraced that,” Coach Harvey said. “She’s a natural scorer and very gifted, which takes a lot of the pressure off her teammates to score.”
Speaking of teammates, one Red Hawk who has definitely felt a little less pressure to score this season is senior forward Alex McKinnon, who was the team’s leading scorer last year. McKinnon, who is averaging 12 points and six rebounds on the season has been very happy with how Carter has been adjusting to the team.
“She has such great confidence about herself and her abilities [as a player],” McKinnon said. “I think she really came into the season ready to take on a big role for us this year.”
Before taking on the role as a leading scorer for the Red Hawks, Carter was at Hunterdon Central Regional High School, where she was a part of multiple sectional playoff appearances, including a Central Jersey Group IV championship in 2017. As for individual awards, Carter was a first-team Skyland Conference selection as a senior.
Carter credited her teammates at Hunterdon Central as the main reason for why the team was so successful throughout her entire high school career.
“Our teammates at [Hunterdon Central] had great chemistry since we grew up together playing basketball,” Carter said. “We complemented each other’s abilities.”
Her success at Hunterdon Central would lead Montclair State to heavily recruit the 5-foot-7 guard out of Flemington, New Jersey. There was a lot of optimism from the coaching staff; Carter could help the team right away offensively, but Coach Harvey has been extremely impressed with Carter’s knowledge of the game.
“She has a very natural basketball mind,” Coach Harvey said. “She understands what we are trying to do on the offensive end with cuts and getting herself open.”
She has also gotten it done on the defensive end, an area that she struggled with coming into the collegiate level. Coach Harvey spoke on her difficulty with this.
“That was the area where she needed the most work on, and we’ve seen a ton of growth from her,” Coach Harvey said. “Against Stockton, she guarded their best three-point shooter, and the kid only had one three-pointer for the game.”
Off the court, Carter has created very close bonds with her teammates, including McKinnon. This has been instrumental to her success not only as a player but for the team in general. Carter talked about her close relationship with the girls.
“From the moment I visited Montclair State and hung out with the team, I instantly clicked with all of them,” Carter said. “I think this has made adjusting to the team easier because I’m really close with the team and I love every single one of them.”