In the most recent installment in his "Forgotten Legends" interview series, CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Utah State great Jaycee Carroll. A prolific scorer in high school, Carroll took his talents to the next level and as a result is the all-time leading scorer in USU history. He also helped lead the program to two NCAA Tournament and three postseason appearances during his time in Logan, and now plays professionally in Spain.
Jon Teitel: As a senior at Evanston HS you set a state scoring record with 39.4 PPG and scored a career-high 56 points (14-16 3PT) against Green River. Was that game just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were "in the zone", and what is the secret to being a great scorer?
Jaycee Carroll: That was quite an experience and definitely an unforgettable night. I was in the zone and felt like every shot I took was going in; they just about all did. The secret to being a great scorer is not just practice, but practicing all types of shots. Good scorers can make it from anywhere on the court: the post, 15-foot jumpers, and three-point shots. It is impossible for a defense to take all of those shots away. Also growing up 1-on-1 was my favorite game to play, and I always played against a bigger cousin which helped a lot.
JT: After high school you spent two years on an LDS mission in Chile. Why did you decide to do that, and what did you learn from it?
JC: I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and I learned/believe that I have been very blessed because the teachings of the church have brought a lot of happiness into my life. I felt a desire to share those beliefs and bring that same joy to others. I learned that nothing brings more joy than when you serve others.
JT: In 2005 you became the first freshman in Big West history to be named conference tournament MVP. How were you able to come in and contribute as a freshman, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus after the conference tourney?
JC: I went into my freshman year wanting to play and contribute in a big way, so I listened to the coaches and did whatever they asked me to do to the best of my ability. It all came together in the end as conference tourney MVP and a berth in the NCAA tourney. Coming back to campus was great. Utah State is a great basketball school, so the fans were thrilled with what we had done.
JT: What are your memories of the 2005 NCAA Tournament (Carroll scored 18 points in a loss to Arizona)?
JC: I remember being matched up with a great player in Salim Stoudamire, and I really wanted to prove that I could play at his level. I was happy for what I did as an individual, but bummed that we lost: I really thought we had a chance to beat them. I remember meeting Coach Lute Olson for a moment after the game. That was pretty cool.
JT: What are your memories of the 2006 NCAA Tournament (Carroll scored 21 points in a loss to Washington, who was led by Brandon Roy's 28 points)?
JC: We did a great job as a team and earned an at-large bid by playing great in our conference tourney. I remember how good a player Roy was. He was flying under the radar at the time and was not really well-known until the tourney: he was very good.
JT: You spent the summer prior to your senior year doing two things: practicing in the gym (where you allegedly took almost 24,000 shots) and getting married (to your wife Baylee). How did you find enough time in the day to take so many shots, and what impact did you off-the-court marriage have on your on-the-court performance (if any)?
JC: I spent a ton of time in the gym that summer. I set a goal before the summer to make 20,000 shots, but real shots (game-situation shots), so every Sunday I would get on my computer and make a weekly schedule of how many shots I took each day, where on the floor I took them from, what move I made before taking the shot, etc. I was really specific and kept track of my makes/misses all summer. It took me 23,695 shots to make 20,178. Getting married only helped me to become a better basketball player because she pushed me to go to the gym and get better. My wife also came to the gym and rebounded for me, she was really a source of great support for me during that time, just as she is now.
JT: What are your memories of the 2008 NIT (Carroll scored 15 points in a 4-PT loss to Illinois State in the final game of his college career)?
JC: I do not have a lot of great memories of that game, as I did not play well and felt like I did not do enough to help my team win. Illinois State did a good job of making things tough on me that game. I do remember afterwards being grateful for all the great experiences that college basketball provided me.
JT: You were a WAC Player of the Year and two-time All-American. What did it mean to you to win such outstanding individual honors?
JC: It was great to receive these honors. I worked really hard over the course of my career, and it is very nice to be recognized. Individual awards also mean that your team was successful, and that made it all worth it.
JT: Your 46.5 3PT% is fourth highest in NCAA history. How big a weapon was the three-point shot in your offensive arsenal, and what is your secret for three-point shooting?
JC: The three-point shot was my weapon of choice for all four years at Utah State, and opened up driving lanes to allow me to score in other ways. The secret is pretty simple: tons of practice and tons of confidence!
JT: You are still the all-time leading scorer in school history. Did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were, and do you think that anyone will ever break your record?
JC: At the time I did not, and having only been gone three years I still do not quite understand where I stack up in school history. The record that I broke stood for about 25 years, and I am sure that 1 day it will be broken...but hopefully not to soon haha!
JT: You scored five points in a six-point loss at the 2008 NABC All-Star Game at the Final Four. What did it mean to you to be invited to participate in that, and which of the other players impressed you the most (Shan Foster, Sundiata Gaines, Jason Thompson, other)?
JC: I was very honored and excited to be a part of the All-Star game. I loved meeting and playing against all the great college players I had watched on TV during the season. I was impressed with Maryland's James Gist, but Shan also had a great game and it was a good experience overall.
JT: In 2008 your team finished second at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. How did you play, and which of the other players impressed you the most (Kyle Hines, Anthony Morrow, Reggie Williams, other)?
JC: It was great to finish 2nd at Portsmouth. I felt like I played decently: I was settling into a new position and it took some time for me to adapt. I was most impressed with Kyle Hines: he was a great worker and a great team player!
JT: After going undrafted you signed with a team in the Italian first division, and after hitting a pair of three-point shots in a 7-second span you were nicknamed "Boom-Boom". How did you like playing in Italy, and how did you like the nickname?
JC: I really enjoyed playing in the Italian league: playing professional basketball is a dream come true. The nickname made me laugh at first, but it is pretty cool. It could be worse!
JT: You currently play in the Spanish first division. How does European pro ball compare to college basketball, and do you think you can make it to the NBA in the future?
JC: Basketball in the Spanish league is very good, very competitive, and brings new challenges with every game. The overall physicality, athleticism, experience, and basketball IQ is much higher than that of most college kids. I believe that I can play for an NBA team someday and contribute for them night in and night out. I would love to have the opportunity to show that.
JT: When people look back on your career, how do you want to be remembered the most?
JC: I would like to be remembered as a fierce competitor, a great teammate, and a guy who always gave 100%.
Carroll is also on Jon's list of best fantasy players in WAC history.
Boise State: Chris Childs (1989) 1602 PTS (#5), 392 AST (#3), 215 STL (#1), 42.2 3P% (#4), 81.8 FT% (#1), conference POY
Fresno State: Melvin Ely (2002) 1951 PTS (#1), 924 REB (#2), 362 BLK (#1), 57.7 FG% (#3), All-American, 2-time conference POY
Hawaii: Melton Werts (1976) 1314 PTS (#5), 1098 REB (#1), 163 BLK (#2)
Idaho: Orlando Lightfoot (1994) 2102 PTS (#1), 766 REB (#3), 168 3PM (#1), All-American, 2-time conference POY
Louisiana Tech: Mike Green (1973) 2340 PTS (#1), 1575 REB (#1), 58 FG% (#2), 3-time All-American, conference POY, national POY
Nevada: Nick Fazekas (2007) 2464 PTS (#1), 1254 REB (#2), 192 BLK (#1), 3-time All-American, 3-time conference POY
New Mexico State: James Moore (2003) 1651 PTS (#5), 174 STL (#2), 200 BLK (#1), 56.4 FG% (#4), 80.1 FT% (#4), All-American, conference POY
San Jose State: Ricky Berry (1988) 1767 PTS (#1), 266 AST (#5), 113 3PM (#5), 45.9 3P% (#1), 82.1 FT% (#1), 3-time All-American
Utah State: Jaycee Carroll (2008) 2522 PTS (#1), 369 3PM (#1), 46.5 3P% (#1), 2-time All-American, conference POY