HED:Todd Vinyard: Rebels’ Carpenter earned his spot in starting

CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)

AUTHOR: TODD

HED:Todd Vinyard: Rebels’ Carpenter earned his spot in starting lineup

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Catching Hunter Carpenter without a smile on his face is almost impossible.

Carpenter, a senior guard at Ole Miss, seems to constantly be in a good mood. But last Saturday the usual smile was even wider. After four years of long practices and sitting on the bench, Carpenter got an opportunity to start Saturday.

The native of Little Rock, Ark., responded with seven points on 3-of-5 shooting in the Rebels’ 79-57 win over LSU. He had no turnovers in 19 minutes of playing time.

Not bad considering Carpenter had played only 34 games in his first three years. He appeared in 12 games this season, but Saturday was his first start.

Carpenter made the most of a Senior Day opportunity. Other Ole Miss seniors – Keith Carter, Jason Smith and Michael White – may have gotten more headlines over the years, but Carpenter had an important role of making those guys work hard in practice every day.

“I looked at the start as an opportunity,” Carpenter said. “I’ve had some great opportunities here at Ole Miss, and I’ve tried to make the most of them. That start may seem small to some people, but to me it was a reward.”

A reward for someone who has the priorities of life in the right place. Every day you read and hear about athletes who despite being handed everything, only want more.

Carpenter was glad for anything he got.

Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes said it was nice to have Carpenter on the team to remind other players about the price of success.

“Sometimes you have to talk about a guy that was on the team five years ago or something like that and say, ‘When we had this guy here he did this,'” Barnes said. “With Hunter here all I have to is point to his work ethic in practice and the classroom.”

Rebel players have seen the example Carpenter sets.

“You have guys who’ve been starters who’ve quit and come back to play and quit again,” White said. “You’ve had guys who’ve played, been suspended and been allowed to come back to play again. And then you have someone like Hunter (Carpenter), who’s been an angel and worked hard for four years.”

“He’s the perfect college athletic story.”

All good stories have tough parts, and so did Carpenter’s. Sure there were times he thought about quitting, despite earning a scholarship after walking on his freshman year. That’s when his father Warren Carpenter reminded him things could be tougher.

“He would tell me I could be doing what he had to do to pay his way through college – work at Pizza Hut,” Carpenter said. “He would tell me I had a chance to get my education paid for and do something I loved by playing basketball.”

Those fatherly words of advice were enough to keep Carpenter going. He definitely made the most of his time in classroom. Three straight years he had made the Southeastern Conference academic honor roll with a 3.97 grade point average in accounting.

Carpenter says he wants to attend law school after graduation, but first there is some basketball to play.

“Last year we peaked too early,” Carpenter said. “This team has a lot of potential left and hopefully we can tap into it.”

There’s little doubt Carpenter has tapped into all his potential during his time at Ole Miss.

Todd Vinyard covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal.