Credit: Lavrio BC
Credit Lavrio BC

In a tournament populated by some hefty EuroLeague stars, Tyson Carter deservedly earned his own place in the sun. 

Olympiacos Piraeus hosted the “bwin TOURNAMENT AGAINST COVID-19” at the Peace and Friendship Stadium over the past weekend, featuring also AS Monaco, Basketball Champions League’s newcomers Lavrio BC and BCL candidates Peristeri. In an exciting showdown that went down to the wire, the former Mississippi State standout was the decisive factor in Lavrio’s win (88-85). The American guard went scoreless in the first half, but surged for good in the second one, amassing 23 points. Among them, some crucial baskets towards the end which handed Lavrio the third place in the tournament.

Credit Lavrio BC

Only five minutes after the final buzzer and while he was on his way to his team’s locker room, Carter was stopped by a dozen fans of the home team, scattered all over the front seats above the players’ entrance. Most of them were dressed up in red and white and when the 23-year-old came close enough, they started screaming: “Carter, Carter, photo! Come to Olympiacos!”. Cell phones were already set to selfie mode and Carter had nothing else to do but smile and nod at whatever the gregarious fans were telling him in a mixture of Greek and English. 

It was definitely a very welcome reception for the American shooting guard, who came very close to actually playing for those same fans. In the 2020-21 campaign, Carter had made the Greek League Best Five with Lavrio, after averaging 13.8 points on 42% three-point shooting, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists, a stat line that didn’t go unnoticed and sparked the interest of many teams, including Olympiacos.

According to several reports stemming from Greek media, Carter’s signing with the "Reds" was almost a foregone conclusion, with the only question revolving around whether he should stay on the roster or rather be loaned out to a lower-caliber team. Apart from the three-time EuroLeague champs, Zalgiris supposedly also got in the mix, vying for his signature. 

However, the deal between Olympiacos and Carter never materialized since the club opted to sign Tyler Dorsey instead. In all likelihood, the organization’s thought of acquiring Carter’s rights and then letting him go on loan was not shared by the player, who desired a two-year contract. Consequently, the son of Greg Carter, who had played with Mississippi State for three years and was inducted to the school's Sports Hall of Fame, didn’t get his much-coveted promotion to the EuroLeague.

There was no use crying over a missed opportunity. Tyson Carter joined the Miami Heat for the Summer League and when the NBA dream looked pale, Lavrio came along again and re-signed him on a one-year contract.

When the photo session with the avid crowd came to an end, Carter was full of enthusiasm: “I like it in Europe. I’m glad to be back and I’m looking forward to doing some great things this year,” he told BasketNews while the Greek fans were still chanting in his ear.

Lavrio managed to go against all odds, challenging some traditionally strong teams in the Greek League last year. The city located just 50 kms away from Athens already boasts an extremely competitive and ambitious basketball team. This year, the FIBA Champions League provides another motivation to everyone involved in the project. Carter notes what had to be done in order for them to repeat, if not leapfrog, last season’s achievements: “We just have to come out with the same intensity. We’re going to play hard every day. This year’s team is a lot of the same as last year. We want to have intensity and start from defense, play up and down the court and have a lot of fun.”

For the 23-year-old, who is set for his second season as a pro, the summer has been “good and quick because it was short. I tried to get better and work on a few things.” In this vein, his participation in the NBA Summer League with the Miami Heat only benefitted him experience-wise, in addition to increasing his stock. “Summer League was fun. I’m glad I got to experience it.”

Carter adds that he’s not sure whether the Heat were really planning on adding him to their roster. “They liked me a lot, they liked my game”, he comments. “They just asked me to be more aggressive and stronger."

When the burning question of Olympiacos comes up, he admits that his side “had some discussions” with the Greek powerhouse. “I talked to them a little bit but ultimately I went to the Summer League and after that, I decided to go back to Lavrio,” he says. However, as soon as the tournament was over, the "Reds" didn’t proceed with his case. “I don’t know actually what happened, I’m not sure,” he quibbles. 

Carter points out that he had “no other EuroLeague offers” during his free agency and it was “just Olympiacos” from Europe’s first-tier that knocked on his door presenting an offer. However, he does not rule out the possibility of a future deal taking place between him and the Reds: “Yeah, I’d like to play for them. Maybe I will, some time.” 

Another quick photo session with fans, biding their time in the stands, was already on the way.

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