May 10, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
Michael Carrera earned a reputation as an unselfish team-player in his four years at South Carolina. So it should not be a surprise that his quest to play professional basketball isn’t just about him. It’s about his family as well, and he didn’t mind sharing that with coaches and scouts he met with at a professional showcase last month in Portsmouth, Va.
“I was really honest with them,” Carrera said about the coaches with whom he spoke. “I want to go where I can make enough money because I have to take care of my family. I have to bring my mom and dad from Venezuela because it’s tough there now.”
Carrera participated in the 2016 Portsmouth Invitational in April after helping the Gamecocks match a school record with 25 wins during the 2015-16 season. The Portsmouth Invitational, one of the top professional showcase events in the country, is a four-day, 12-game tournament-style event, which gave 64 seniors a chance to play in front of representatives from every NBA team as well as scouts from numerous international professional leagues.
“There were a lot of European and other international basketball scouts there,” Carrera said. “I think I did pretty well. It’s not just about the numbers though. It’s about the energy you bring to the team and how much passion you have. The scouts that I talked to said they loved my game because of that. They said they liked my maturity on the court and how I pick things up quickly.”
In addition to helping the South Carolina team grow, Carrera averaged career highs in every major statistical category this year, including leading the Gamecocks in overall scoring with 14.5 points per game as well as a team-leading 16.1 points per game in SEC play, which ranked eighth in the league. He became just one of six Gamecocks all-time with 1,000 career points and at least 800 career boards. His eight double-doubles in SEC play tied for second-most in conference play this season, while his 11 double-doubles overall on the year ranked fourth in the league and marked the most by a Gamecock since the 1993-94 season. Carrera is quick to point out that playing at South Carolina under head coach Frank Martin helped prepare him for a chance to play professionally.
“It helped me a lot, especially because of Frank,” Carrera said. “In professional basketball, you have to have mental toughness. I think that is something that Frank has, and he puts in your head. If you follow what he says, he’s going to help you out, no matter what. Every single coach that I’ve talked to said they love Frank because of how tough he is, and he tells you straight up what is going on. That’s a plus for me because they know I played for him for four years. He’s going to strive to make you better every single day.”
Despite good numbers in college, Carrera knows he’ll need to keep proving himself in other ways at the next level.
“I know that my first year in professional basketball, I probably won’t be a 20 or 30-point guy,” Carrera said. “I’m going to have to play defense and just try to bring energy to a team. I think I did a little bit of everything at this tournament. Of course I have to work on a lot of little things. I think I did pretty well. I did my job. I wasn’t trying to do anything that I didn’t know how to do. I just did my thing, which is rebounding, try to go to the basket and hit some three point shots. I shot 52% from three (point range) in the three games. I think it was pretty good.”
I want to go where I can make enough money because I have to take care of my family.
The student-athletes at the Portsmouth Invitational were also put through various measurable drills and had chances to interview with representatives from professional teams.
“They have you do agilities and workout on the first day,” Carrera said. “They test your reactions, speed, and vertical. After the games, my agent set up meetings with NBA teams. Every franchise is different and they’re looking for something really special in each of us. They wanted to know more about your background and more about you and what you can bring to the franchise.
“It was a really good experience. At first I was really nervous. My first interview was with Oklahoma City, and I almost cried because I was just so excited to be there. There were seven guys around me from Oklahoma City, and I was there by myself. I had so much fun. The guys from Detroit said they really liked my game because it reminded them of the ‘Bad Boys.’ ”
While his passionate play may reflect Detroit’s teams of 1980s and 1990s, Carrera is definitely one of the good guys who is chasing his dream to play professional basketball, whether it means playing overseas or playing in the NBA’s Developmental League.
“I’ll try to make an impression,” Carrera said. “I’m going to try to make something happen. I will do my best to impress some teams. Hopefully they’ll like my size, and how I guard people. I had the chance to guard people at all five positions in the tournament. I think that is something some of the scouts liked. They want guys who are tough, and I think I showed that.”
His mom, Katherine Gamboa, and dad, Luis Carrera, were able to see him play at South Carolina as a junior, but were unable to attend games this year so they could come and see him walk at graduation last weekend when he received his degree in sociology. Now he’s ready to take the next step in his career, while bringing his parents with him.
“I miss them,” Carrera said. “They’re ready to be with me, and I’m ready to be with them. I feel like I’ve matured, and I’ve already been through a lot of things that would make it easy to adjust to another country. If I have a contract that takes me overseas I will take that. If I have a contract with an NBA team that wants me to go to the ‘D-league,’ I will do that.”
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