Charlotte, N.C. — He hadn’t played in five of his last six games, but with Tyus Battle sidelined with a sore back, Syracuse Orange freshman point guard Jalen Carey was called into action in the first half against Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2019 ACC Tournament. As the season has worn on, Carey has seen a reduction of his role. He played in every non-conference game sans Arkansas State but in the ACC regular season Carey didn’t play in eight out 18 conference contests.
On Wednesday night against Pittsburgh his number called at the 6:49 mark in the first half. It was the first time he earned minutes since the Wake Forest game and first meaningful action since the NC State game. Carey said he didn’t know whether or not he’d play prior to the game, but says he always stays ready mentally as if he’ll play.
“It’s just mental focus, it’s mental toughness,” Carey began. “A lot of people that might be in my position might fold or might not know what to do. But me, I just stay ready. Each day in practice, each day I just keep myself motivated knowing my future.”
Carey checked into the game with Syracuse down eight points. He gave up a triple to Jared Wilson-Frame, but responded with a nice sequence when he caught a transition pass ahead from Elijah Hughes and jetted up the court for a reverse finish at the rim. He sparked a 5-0 Syracuse run just before the intermission.
“That reverse lay-up, I feel like that’s my game. I like to get out in transition. I feel like when I’m in there our tempo speeds up a little bit,” Carey said.
Carey’s ability to get on the break caught the Pittsburgh defense off guard. On the very next possession, he returned the favor to Hughes by pushing the ball and getting into the middle of the Pittsburgh 2-3 zone and kicked it back up top to Hughes for three.
Of the play, Carey said, “that’s just a confidence booster, once I got the lay-up I was able to get in and get E a three. I feel like that helped us go on a run a little bit.”
Frank Howard has taken Carey under his wing this season, but thought that he didn’t need to say anything to Carey before the game with Battle sidelined. Howard said he doesn’t need to rev Carey up to play basketball because he loves the game and comes to play every day.
“He’s came in and did his job, in my opinion he played really great especially in the scenario he played in,” Howard said. “He’s a confident kid. We understand he’s going to go out and play his game regardless.”
Carey plays with a bit of an edge to his game. He wants to play more minutes and knows he can help his team. He says he was happy that Syracuse got the win and he’s going to continue to listen and learn from his coaches.
But the frosh out of Harlem, N.Y. plays with a little bit of swagger.
“It just comes from where I’m from,” he said. “I just got a chip on my shoulder.”
With Jim Boehiem suggesting that Battle is still 2-3 more days away from being healthy, Syracuse might need that edge tonight against Duke.