High School Girls Basketball

Freshman forward Carlton a unique talent for Spartans

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 12/14/20

Justice Carlton watched Seven Lakes varsity girls basketball games as an eighth grader at Beckendorff Junior High last year.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
High School Girls Basketball

Freshman forward Carlton a unique talent for Spartans

Posted

Justice Carlton watched Seven Lakes varsity girls basketball games as an eighth grader at Beckendorff Junior High last year.

In awe of the speed of the players and the game, Carlton imagined herself playing with those same Spartans as a freshman.

“I watched them play before I got here and it’s cool to see the same players that I watched are now my teammates,” Carlton said. “I was excited to play with them.”

Her new teammates are just as excited to play with her.

Carlton is a 6-foot-2 freshman forward, a unique, versatile talent that has quickly made an impact for Seven Lakes. Carlton is averaging 26 points per game for the 7-1 Spartans, who are 2-0 in District 19-6A play with wins over Katy and Taylor.

“The game is just so much easier with Justice,” senior guard Addison Poth said. “Shots are wide open, and we still aren’t used to that. It’s great how much attention she gets and how she pulls the defense in. It opens up so much for everyone.”

In Monday’s non-district 54-45 win over George Ranch, Carlton was dominant with 21 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. The 21 points were a season low, telling of how great she has been this season.

Carlton was constantly double-teamed in the second half by an athletic Longhorns team. Still, she almost always made the right play. She faced up and found open teammates (often it was Poth, who drilled four 3s). Because of her ability to initiate offense from the perimeter, senior forward Lily Baumgardner and junior guard KK Tucker had success driving open lanes for easy buckets or free-throw opportunities.

“She’s so special in the fact that she’s mature in the game itself,” coach Angela Spurlock said of Carlton. “She’s 15 years old and just really understands basketball. She wants to be a great teammate as much as she wants to reach her own personal goals, and that’s really special to have in a young player.”

Carlton is having a blast. In middle school, she often felt like she was on an island as defenses swarmed her, making life difficult. She had teammates who simply were not on her level of skill or thinking. Now, whenever she’s harassed by defenders, she has teammates who can handle the ball, make plays and shoot from distance.

“It’s definitely the speed and the people around me,” Carlton said about her biggest adjustment from junior high to varsity high school basketball. “In middle school, I didn’t have that many people to depend on when I was double-teamed.”

Having watched Seven Lakes games and studied players, Carlton knew she’d be joining a team full of shooters and guards. So, during the summer, she worked tirelessly to refine her interior game.

She has a quick second jump on offensive rebounds and a soft touch around the rim. And while it’s only eight games into the season, the Spartans’ guards are quickly grasping how and when to get the ball to Carlton.

The post-entry passing against George Ranch was impressive. Whether double-teamed or fronted by the defense, Carlton had no trouble getting the ball as guards worked angles and were patient swinging the ball from side to side to get her the best look.

“We’ve been working a lot in practice on giving her the right pass,” Poth said. “At the beginning, we struggled, simply because none of us are used to playing with a legitimate post player. But we’ve been working hard and she’s getting it in good spots.”

It’s not an unfamiliar sight at Spartans practices to see mesh dummies, traffic cones and trash cans mimicking double teams and defenses so that players and Carlton can work on passing, positioning and ball movement.

Poth said Carlton’s leadership is also exceptional. Generally, freshmen are quiet and timid. Not Carlton. She communicates to teammates and helps them.

“It’s just been a matter of helping them figure out how to play with a true post,” said Carlton, who said she models her game after the Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis and Las Vegas Aces’ Liz Cambage and wants to be able to “play everywhere, off whatever people give me.” “Sometimes we run into each other just because that is so new to them. Lily and I are still trying to figure out how to work together, and we’re all still trying to figure out our places on the floor.”

Spurlock, the program’s head coach since the school’s inception in 2005, said she has not coached a true post talent like Carlton since 6-3 center La Toya Micheaux at Hightower in the early 2000s.

“Here at Seven Lakes, we just haven’t been a very tall team,” Spurlock said. “It hasn’t hindered us from being a successful program, but the game changes when you’ve got someone like Justice in the middle.”

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment