“I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish I was a baller.” These are the words so memorably rapped by 1995 one-hit wonder Skee-Lo that now reside in the collective conscious of basketball players all over the world. Although 4-foot-10 nine-year old Carter Gates is a good bit shorter than every member of the Colorado College men’s basketball team, he got his own wishes of becoming a baller on Tuesday, Dec. 16 when the Tigers took on Johnson & Wales University. Carter signed a symbolic letter of intent to join the Tigers in a ceremonial event preceding the game and made a 15-second appearance for the Tigers at the start of the game.
Carter is currently battling cancer and will undergo chemotherapy continuously over the next two and a half years. He was paired with Tigers through an organization called Team IMPACT, which pairs chronically ill children with college sports teams. Gates made the most of his appearance with Tigers, posting two points on two shots.
Carter corralled the tip, and as Johnson & Wales defenders swarmed around him narrowly missed a layup attempt. Not to worry, Carter snagged the rebound and sunk a confident layup to record the first two points of his college career. Following Carter’s basket, the Tigers went on to prevail in a tight game against the Johnson & Wales Wildcats 61-57.
The Tigers are currently without junior captains James Berardino and James Lonergan. In their absence, talented freshman have been asked to step into the limelight for the Tigers. Among that group for the Tigers are freshmen John Hatch and Ryan Young. Hatch made his college debut, after missing all of preseason recovering from knee surgery he underwent this past July. Head Coach Andy Partee believes big things are in store for Hatch, “He has a huge upside.”
Partee said in regards to Tuesday’s game, “I think we saw a glimpse of what’s to come. He only played 13 minutes tonight. He shot 4-8 from the field, two blocks, three steals, and three rebounds. That’s pretty productive — making an impact on both sides of the ball.”
The Tigers turned in a balanced effort against the Wildcats with no player posting more than 10 points and 16 assists on 25 field goals. While the Tigers shared the ball effectively on the offensive end, the Tigers are working to develop their new full-court pressure scheme that Head Coach Andy Partee is implementing this season. Partee said, “Our press has been a big part of our identity thus far.” The Tigers forced Johnson & Wales into 18 turnovers in the matchup while only coughing up the ball 10 times on the offensive end.
According to Partee his team is only “scratching the surface” at this point in the season at a record of 4-4 overall. The Tigers head into conference play against SCAC opponents following Christmas break. The Tigers’ campaign thus far has held adversity and no doubt the year will contain more obstacles. Carter Gates’ presence on the team has helped put these struggles in perspective for Partee’s team.
“Carter truly is a bright light. When we speak of adversity on the court or in the classroom, it pales in comparison to Carter’s ongoing battle and the adversity he faces every day. He is the picture of inspiration,” said Partee.
Partee was inspired by Carter’s presence at the game following chemotherapy treatment on Monday, “He was here today, energetic and enthusiastic, and his passion for basketball was felt by all in attendance. I don’t know what it feels like to have cancer, nor can I relate to the effects of chemotherapy on the body. But, what I witnessed today seems very uncommon.”
The men’s basketball team has participated in service projects in the past, but Partee describes this experience as the most “intimate” experience the team has had thus far. Partee said, “I think Carter adds perspective to what currently exist in our lives. He reminds me of my favorite quote by Phil Jackson: ” There’s a lot more to life than basketball, but there’s a lot more to basketball than just basketball.”