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Carr Gets the Point, Makes a Difference

Never underestimate the wonders of modern medicine.

One year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, point guard Markus Carr of Cal State Northridge was back on the court Saturday, gliding up and down with the greatest of ease.

There was no hesitation and no holding back. The only sign of his Sept. 10, 1997, knee surgery is a two-inch scar visible when he removes his black knee brace.

“I’m back 101%,” he said.

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What a difference he makes. The freshman from Palmdale High came off the bench in each half to provide a definite spark in Northridge’s 83-65 season- opening victory over Long Beach State at The Pyramid.

Forget the fact Carr felt a little nervous before his first college game.

“I was thinking I was going to come out there and maybe choke,” he said.

He entered the game with 13:11 left in the first half and Northridge ahead, 17-15. By halftime, the Matadors’ lead had grown to 43-34. In the second half, he came in with 13:29 left and Northridge clinging to a 52-47 advantage. By the time he left nine minutes later, Northridge was ahead, 71-56.

Carr did what any productive point guard is supposed to do--he brought cohesion and order to the Matadors’ offense with his ball-handling, decision-making and leadership. He finished with 11 points, four assists and four turnovers in 22 minutes.

Jason Crowe, the starting point guard, didn’t have his best game, going one for five from the field in 18 minutes, but Coach Bobby Braswell of Northridge knows Carr will offer both competition and relief for Crowe.

If you want to know why this might be the best Northridge basketball team in its nine seasons of Division I play, it’s depth. Ten minutes into the game, 10 Matadors had already played. The team goes two-deep at each position.

Northridge even flourished despite star recruit Rico Harris sitting on the bench for almost 17 minutes of the first half with two fouls.

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Carr is the real deal. At Palmdale High, he averaged 20.3 points as a senior. He was supposed to contribute as a freshman last season until his freak injury in a pickup game. Then came the greatest challenge of his life.

“I’ve never been through anything like this,” he said. “I never expected my life to go this way. It was hard. People were telling me stuff like I’m going to be a step slower, not be able to jump as high, not be as quick. But I worked hard. It was a long road. It got to me emotionally and physically and made me think.”

Three months of his rehabilitation was spent in an unheated Northridge pool trying to improve the knee’s mobility and range of motion.

“It was ice cold,” he said. “It made me want to hurry up and get it over with.”

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He did workouts on a bike. He did exercises and lifted weights. He put his trust in Northridge’s training staff and the man who performed the surgery, Dr. Lester Cohn.

“I was waiting for [Cohn] to tell me if I’d be out for a year or my whole career,” Carr said. “When he told me a year, I was relieved and knew I could come back.”

Carr’s successful return should provide encouragement for another guard trying to come back from ACL surgery, Baron Davis of UCLA.

“Keep working hard and believe,” Carr said is his advice to Davis.

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The two will get the chance to compare their knee scars Dec. 19 when Northridge plays the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion.

This could be the season Northridge gains national recognition in basketball, so get on the bandwagon quick.

Long Beach State blew it three years ago when it had the chance to hire Braswell, a former 49er assistant. He worked under Joe Harrington and Seth Greenberg for three years. The 49ers chose Wayne Morgan. Northridge was left with Braswell. The Valley boy is ready to make everyone proud.

At 23, he was coach at Cleveland High. In 1986 and 1987, his first two years as coach, the Cavaliers reached the City Section 4-A championship game. No Valley team has returned to the Sports Arena since. He even beat Crenshaw.

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One of his players was Andre Chevalier, hired this year as a Northridge assistant.

“I think he’s still the same as far as disciplining guys and having the guys’ best interest to heart in all aspects,” Chevalier said.

Braswell, 36, guarantees two things. “We’ll play hard and we’ll play unselfishly,” he said.

With Carr at full strength and the team talent level as good as it’s ever been, expectations are high at Northridge.

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“We know this team can be special,” Chevalier said.

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Eric Sondheimer’s local column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422.


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