Baltimore’s Aquille Carr, the country’s most dynamic and exciting high school player, continues to burnish his growing legend while fighting crime in his spare time.
His YouTube mixtape highlights, with well over three million collective hits and counting, make you seriously wonder if your eyes have the capacity to lie. If you don’t already know, Aquille Carr, whose name means strong as an eagle in Latin and intelligent and wise in Arabic, is a 5-7 rising junior athletic marvel with a 48-inch vertical leap at Baltimore’s Patterson High School.
He is, without question, the country’s most electrifying high school player. Some say, pound-for-pound, inch-for-inch, he’s the nation’s best. With astounding athleticism, speed, courageousness and a scoring arsenal that is reminiscent of a young Allen Iverson, coupled with the night-goggle floor vision of Steve Nash, Baltimore’s rugged streets can no longer contain Carr’s mushrooming legend, which now stretches across the pond to Europe and afar.
It’s also a legend that came perilously close to never happening at all.
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The orthopedic hand specialist who performed the emergency surgery delivered the bad news to Tammy and Allen Carr almost 11 years ago.
Earlier that day, before he had the chance to blow out candles on his sixth birthday, the boundless bundle of energy was in the back-alley, playing a spirited game of touch football in the rain.
Aquille caught a pass on the run when he was pushed from behind. As the rubber soles of his sneakers slid across the wet pavement, his momentum propelled him toward a crash meeting with the rear of a brick row house. Struggling to maintain his balance, he extended a lefty Heisman stiff-arm to lessen the collision’s impact.
“My arm went right through the basement window,” says Aquille. “If somebody had banged out the rest of the glass before I pulled it out, it wouldn’t have been that bad. But by me being in shock, I just ripped my arm back out.”
In doing so, he severed numerous nerves, flexor and extensor tendons: the crucial inner infrastructure of the wrist and hand that allow you to control things like finger movement, squeezing, motor skills and the ability to open and close a fist.
“The doctor said Aquille would never use that hand regularly again,” says his father, Allen. “But he wasn’t having that.”
Within days, he could no longer contain his frustration with the cumbersome, itchy cast that engulfed his skinny wrist and hand.
“Instead of using a hanger to scratch at it, I just ripped it off,” says Aquille. “I kept pulling at it until it became loose and slid it right off.”
He took it upon himself to strengthen his left hand during every waking moment, constantly squeezing a therapeutic rubber ball, day and night.
“That’s when I knew that, physically, he was a little bit different,” says Aquille’s older brother, Allen Jr. “If I had a basketball, he’d grab it and dribble with his left hand to make it stronger.”
The youngest of five brothers who all played serious ball, Allen Sr. blossomed into a 6-2 shooting guard with abnormal hops and a sweet jumper in the early ’80s.
“Al was a tough guard who had the ability to get to the basket, could hit the shot and he had a nice little handle,” says Muggsy Bogues, the 5-3 revolutionary talent from Baltimore’s Dunbar High School who did most of his NBA damage with the then Charlotte Hornets. “He was an Allan Houston type of guard.”
Despite receiving recruiting mail from schools like Boston College, Allen began his career at Baltimore’s Essex Community College to strengthen his grades. Despite a stellar freshman year, Allen was troubled by the fact that Tammy â€“ who gave birth to Allen Jr. right after they both graduated from Patterson â€“ was struggling to provide for their infant child.
“Stuff was getting tight at home, and it just got to the point where I needed to take care of my family,” says Allen.
He got a job as a delivery helper on a Baltimore Gas and Electric truck, lugging and installing washing machines, air conditioners and refrigerators. The young couple, which could now afford a small apartment, got married and went about raising a family.
Although no longer a ticket out of the struggling neighborhood, competing in local basketball tournaments nourished him after arduous, back-breaking days on the job.
“Every time I had a game, I’d walk into the gym with Aquille sitting on my shoulders and Allen Jr. and my daughter Ashlie walking right beside me,” says Allen.
“I remember that my father could jump for real,” adds Aquille. “I saw how aggressive he was going to the basket. Watching him, I couldn’t wait to play under the whistle.”
Allen put little Aquille on teams in the eight-and-under age bracket at the age of five while he and Allen Jr. trained him at home.
“When I took him to play in games, people would be laughing and ask, ‘Why is that little boy out there?'” says Allen. “But after the game, they’d come up to me and say, “Shorty’s gonna be alright.'”
At home, Allen Jr., who is 10 years older, marked a small square on the kitchen’s linoleum floor, demonstrating moves for his little brother to replicate.
“If the ball went out of the square, that meant it was a turnover,” says Allen Jr. “After each move that he mastered, he’d add his own little flair to it. He’d do something extremely difficult in a game, in traffic, and he’d look at me as if to say, ‘Is that right?’ That would amaze me.”
Once, at Baltimore’s famed playground venue known as “The Dome” when he was 10, Aquille zoomed down court with a defender squatting at the three-point line to halt his momentum. He never broke stride, dribbled the ball between his opponent’s legs, caught it off the bounce and swished the game-winning jumper. Grown folks sprinted on the court screaming in a state of delirium.
“He was the talk of the town way before he got to high school,” says Genelle McCoy, one of his former recreation league coaches and a current mentor.
“He never played against kids his own age,” says James Johnson, a family friend who played against Allen Sr. in high school. “Aquille always had the heart of a lion. He was an asset on the court, even back then against grown men, because of his ability to handle the ball, penetrate, and dish off.”
“Aquille was so competitive from the beginning that his desire to win would get the better of him,” adds Allen Jr. “We said things to get him upset and pushed him around on purpose, so he could perform under pressure when he was angry.”
But while his skills were drawing rave reviews on the court, his periodic, irate outbursts made many parents and competing coaches snicker. If he disagreed with something, he’d sometimes scream profanities at referees â€“ and even some of his coaches â€“ during games.