Press box confessional: With about six minutes left half in the first half Tuesday, Huskies point guard Quade Green had the ball on a 2-on-0 break. To his right was Washington wing Nahziah Carter, who had just jumped about three jockeys high to throw down an alley-oop jam. Caught up in the moment, I found myself involuntarily betraying press-box decorum.
“Lob it!” I said.
Green listened, Carter flew, and then came a dunk even more vicious than the first.
If you haven’t watched Naz Carter live yet this season, you may have to dab some Wite-out on your calendar. You might have to rearrange plans to witness one of the best athletes to set foot in Hec Ed.
The Huskies men’s basketball program has produced skywalkers such as Nate Robinson and Terrence Ross, each of whom has won the NBA Slam Dunk contest. But it’s possible, very possible, that Carter is UW’s best in-game dunker yet.
Naz’s elevation skills didn’t gain national prominence during his first two years at Washington. Devout fans knew what he could do in the air, but he was seldom featured on a team where seniors comprised four of the five top minute-getters. But when he took off from the baseline vs. Mount St. Mary’s in the Huskies’ home opener last week, jaws hit the floor about three seconds before he did.
ESPN’s Jalen Rose and David Jacoby discussed him on their televised radio show, saying they were going to “adopt” him and feature his jams regularly. It doesn’t hurt that Carter is the nephew of hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, which would accentuate anybody’s newfound fame.
But it is Naz’s levitation, not lineage, that will keep eyes fixated on him throughout the season. And if Tuesday’s performance was a trailer for what’s to come, the feature film will be a blockbuster.
Neither of Carter’s two alley-oops was his best dunk in UW’s win over Maine. That came with just under four minutes left in the first half, when he threw down a windmill off a steal.
Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said Carter would have been sitting next to him had he missed, but instead, he got the entire arena on its feet.
Asked how it felt to flush it like that, Naz said “it feels like you’re flying.” He added a fourth dunk in the second half and finished with eight points for the game.
The 25th-ranked Huskies (3-1) feature two potential lottery picks in freshmen Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. But even if those two end up leading the team in points or rebounds, Carter will lead in oohs and aahs.
“He’s an incredible finisher, especially dunking the ball,” Hopkins said. “He’s definitely a game dunker. There’s a lot of dunk-contest guys and then there are guys that are great in-game dunkers. Naz is a great in-game dunker.”
Carter isn’t just a dunker, though. His 15.8 points per game lead the Huskies (Stewart is second at 15.3), as do his 2.3 steals — and he is shooting 46.3 percent from three-point distance.
He had two 18-point games for Washington last year, and lived up to his @_clutchcarter Twitter handle in the NCAA tournament when he hit consecutive three-pointers to squelch a Utah State run in the second half.
Does he have a future in the NBA? Possibly. As of now, ESPN ranks him as the 74th best draft prospect in 2020, and with that athleticism, there’s potential to climb.
Because, man … the dude can leap.
Fortunately for the Huskies, they don’t have to choose between style and substance. They seem to have the defensive tools to stifle most teams they face, and will likely jell offensively as they get more comfortable with each other.
There are plenty of reasons to watch this team. But one guy in particular stands, er, jumps out.