By David Fong
HILLSBORO, Kan. — Lance Carter learned a lot about the sport of basketball from two of the biggest mentors in his life.
From his father Clarence and his older brother Shane, Lance learned his punishing post moves, a wicked crossover dribble and his silky smooth jump shot — all of which served him well during his playing days at Troy High School and, more recently, Tabor College. As important as all of those skills were on the basketball court, however, it’s what he learned from them off the court that likely will benefit Carter most in the long run.
“It’s always been about education,” said Carter, a 2011 Troy graduate who recently finished his record-setting career at Tabor College, a Division II NAIA school in Kansas. “Before my dad passed away — and something my brother Shane carried on — he always told me education comes first. That’s something I tell young kids. Basketball ends for everyone. Michael Jordan isn’t playing anymore.”
With Carter’s playing days likely in the rear view mirror — Tabor was eliminated from the NAIA Division II national tournament last month after making it all the way to the Elite Eight — he’s looking forward to a future that would seem undeniably bright, in part because the work he put in taking classes at Tabor matched, or possibly exceeded, the work he put in on the court.
Carter earned his undergraduate degree following his third year at Tabor and has spent his final year on the team in taking graduate school classes. In May of 2018, he’ll graduate with his master’s degree in business administration, with a focus on leadership.
“It’s very important to me to be a good role model for kids,” Carter said. “I know my brother (Shane) is already doing that (as executive director) at the Lincoln Community Center. That’s something we both talk about a lot — doing it for the kids. I want to be able to show kids how important it is and to be able to stay in school.”
A stellar career on the basketball court has given Carter a platform with which to reach that many more kids in the community.
As a senior, Carter averaged 19.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game — all team highs — while earning first-team NAIA All-American honors and his second Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year award. Last season, he was a second-team All-American and was the KCAC Player of the Year. As both a freshman and sophomore, he was named All-KCAC honorable mention.
In his four years at Tabor, Carter became the leading scorer in school history (1,817 points), the school’s all-time assist leader (612) and ranks in the top 10 all time in rebounds (816). He also led the team to four NAIA Tournament appearances and four KCAC championships.
“Aside from winning a national championship — which is something that was definitely on my radar — I felt like I had a heck of a career, both individually and as a team,” Carter said. “We were able to do some pretty special things.”
Not bad for a kid who traveled halfway across the country to find little more than wheat fields and homesickness four years ago. At the time, Carter didn’t think he’d manage to make it his entire career at Tabor.
“No, I’d be lying if I said I did,” he said. “I had thoughts about leaving after my freshman year. Then my dad got sick and things got even harder. But I knew he would have wanted me to stay and get my degree. Now I definitely love it here. It’s always nice to get home and see the people I love, but I like it out here, too. I’ve made a lot of friends and met some really nice people.”
As looks toward his future, Carter said he has a number of options — and isn’t ruling out continuing his basketball career in some capacity.
“I’m still exploring my options as a player,” he said. “I’ve been to a couple of showcases. It would have to be the right situation for me, though. I’d be agreeable to going overseas to play if I had to. I’ve also been exploring the Canadian Basketball League. I’m definitely open to the right situation if it happens to come my way. I’ve also had thoughts about coming back and being a graduate assistant for the basketball team next year.
“After I graduate, I’d like to work in sports administration — maybe become and athletic director or something like that. Maybe something working with kids. I definitely want to stay involved in sports to some degree. Once I have my master’s degree, I feel like I’ll have a lot of options open for me.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong