Delaware’s Carl Baptiste scored a career-high 24 points (including 9-11 FG) in his team’s 75-74 nail-biter over William & Mary in the CAA tourney title game on Monday, securing the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tourney. CHD’s Jon Teitel sat down with the senior forward to discuss his transfer from St. Joe’s and making a huge leap from his junior year to now.
You played two years at St. Joe’s before transferring to Delaware. What is the biggest difference between the A-10 and the CAA, and why did you pick the Blue Hens? When I first got to college I did not see a big difference between the two conferences, but the CAA has gotten a little weaker after schools like VCU or George Mason left. Delaware recruited me during high school and was 1 of my top choices, so I figured I would go there because I already had a good relationship with them and I knew they needed another big man to come in and help them win a title.
You play for Coach Monte Ross, what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you ever learned from him? He is a great role model: we do a lot of community service work and reach out to our fans and school because they give a lot to us. He is a player’s coach and will take our advice during timeouts if we want to call a certain play.
Your stats have all gone up dramatically from last year despite only playing an extra nine minutes per game more this year. What has been the biggest change from last year to this year? Last year Jamelle Hagins was our big-time player who could rebound and block shots, but now I am finally out of his shadow. I sat down with Coach Ross last year about my role this year, and practiced all spring summer to prepare for it.
Your team was 6-7 through the end of December, but has won 19 of 21 since then. How did you flip the switch to go on such an amazing run? It was tough at first due to a couple of players who got suspended, but once we got everyone on the same page it just clicked. We played some high-level competition like Villanova and Ohio State: I actually forgot that we even had a losing record back then!
In late-November you scored 13 points in a four-point loss at Villanova. What makes the Wildcats so good, and what did you learn from that loss that you think can help you in the postseason? They are a great defensive team wit intense pressure who gets stops and can get out in transition. It taught us that we can play well against a great team who competes in a major conference.
You scored a career-high 24 points (9-11 FG) in a one-point win over William & Mary in the title game on Monday. Was it just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were “in the zone” and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterward? I have had success against them in the past so my teammates tried to get me involved right from the start, and I was focused because it was a championship game. It was unreal in the locker room: we are still in disbelief because it is a dream come true.
Jarvis Threatt was named conference tourney MVP after being suspended for a month earlier this season: how crucial has he been to your team’s success this year? He is pivotal to our success and a great point guard who gets everyone the ball. If we have trouble scoring then he can get inside and get fouled: he has really been a stat-stuffer throughout the year.
Your school is in the NCAA tourney for the first time since 1999. What has the reaction been like since you got back to campus? It is amazing to see the support from the students and fans and alumni: they want to see us make some noise in the tourney!
What kind of seed do you think you will get, and what kind of seed do you think you deserve? I think we will be a 12 or 13 seed, which is what we deserve. If we get that, I think we can absolutely pull off an upset.