Freshman John Carroll Learning The Ropes At Hartford

John Carroll had the longest wait to play for Hartford on their five-game exhibition tour.

The 6’8″ freshman thought he was going to make his debut early on in the team’s trip to Australia. Instead Carroll had to take the long trip and wait two games until being fully cleared by the NCAA. By the third game he was ready to make an impact and did not miss a beat, scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the Hawks first win on their tour.

John-Carroll-vs-Westtown-2
John Carroll impressed in his three games in Australia, but is still adjusting to the offense (Photo courtesy: Tug Haines)

The more unique challenge Carroll has is playing in an offense that plays in an unusual fashion. Head coach John Gallagher’s offense is known for shooting plenty of three-pointers — last season the Hawks took 44.1% of their field goals from the outside, the 10th most in the country.

The job of the forwards is to catch the ball and help run the ball to the sharpshooters and Carroll is still learning on the job.

“The ball is in your hands a lot and just me being patient,” is the most difficult part of learning the offense according to Carroll. “I know when I get it I want to go right away and instead, just to take a couple of seconds.”

“It makes you have to know all of their positions, so I know where they’re moving. It’s like knowing five positions, not just the bigs.”

The one benefit the Dublin, Ireland native has is two-time first-team All-America East senior Mark Nwakamma, who led the team with 15.3 ppg last season.

“A lot of the offense is ran through the big man, so we have to know each call,” Nwakamma said about the most difficult part of learning the offense. “It’s not easy, but once you do get it down, it’s second nature and it will get easier over time.”

In the one game the two played together, Carroll said that it was easy to work off of the senior captain because of his experience in the offense.

“It’s just about making reads,” Carroll said emphasizing the four out, one in style of the Hawks offense. “Mark knows the offense much better than me, so I sort of just work off him when I’m in the game to see what he’s doing.”

Carroll said that Gallagher points to tell him to watch what Mark is doing at least once every practice. Though the talent the freshman displayed throughout the Australian trip may turn him into a rotation staple.

“I think John Carroll gives us a presence inside that can really help us,” Gallagher said.

For a team that has six seniors, Carroll has not had trouble fitting into the team but he is eager to learn the intricacies of Hartford’s system. Gallagher is pushing Carroll hard during the Hawks’ practices and workouts.

“He’s quite patient with me,” Carroll said when it comes to learning the offense. “If I do get tired, he just stays on me to keep going.”

Nwakamma sees in Carroll a player who can help the Hawks get to their first America East championship and NCAA tournament bid.

“His approach is exactly what we need,” Nwakamma said. “I’m confident that he is going to help us get to where we want to go. I’m really excited to play with him and have that tandem down low.”

Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the America East conference, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.

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