Opponents beware this season – the Dixon boys basketball team now has a souped-up Carr.
Laron Carr was solid as a sophomore starter a year ago, when he averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.1 steals per game, and earned honorable mention all-conference notice. He's now a junior, and he plans on becoming more of an all-around force for the Dukes.
"This summer changed me a lot," Carr said. "The player I used to be, I was out of control. I was just doing stuff I wanted, but now I'm more under control. I know how to handle the ball better, and how to run through plays like I'm supposed to."
Third-year coach Jason Mead has already seen a difference in Carr.
"I just think he's grown up a little bit," Mead said. "We have quite a few kids that do a lot of good things in terms of leadership, but I think Laron has improved the most at that among all of our guys."
The most noticeable difference, Mead noticed, is Carr has emerged as a vocal leader.
"When we're doing drills as a group, he'll be talking to other players, encouraging them, giving them reminders of what they need to do, and helping them when things aren't going well," Mead said.
That wasn't the case last season. Carr is quiet by nature, but not anymore – at least, on the court.
"It's kind of hard, but I have to get out of my comfort zone," Carr said. "It had to come one day, and now's the time."
Part of Carr's development stems from the absence this summer of one of the Dukes' top players, Cal Jarrett, who hurt an ankle on the first play of the first game at the Westwood Summer League. Rather than sulk, the Dukes played on, and did quite well.
"I had to step up and be a better leader," Carr said, "and show the team just because one player is down, the whole team can't be down. We had to keep going and keep fighting."
Mead noted it wasn't just Carr who took a step forward in the summer. He described competing without Jarrett as a "silver lining to the cloud."
"Everybody had to step up and do things that were not necessarily within their roles last year," Mead said.
Carr's role won't necessarily be to score a ton of points, with Jarrett and fast-rising sophomore Isaiah Roby around. Instead, it will be to break down defenses with his quickness and improved ball-handling.
"He's an exceptional dribble penetrator," Mead said. "Right now, I would say he's one of our better guys at being able to get past his man, draw help, and be able to find somebody else who's open. His passes are usually very accurate, a lot more accurate than they were last year."
Defensively, Mead considers the 5-foot-8 Carr a top on-ball defender, with room for improvement at help-side defense.
"He's picking up on things at a quicker rate than I thought he would," Mead said.
Carr has exceptionally high standards he has set for himself this season.
"My goal this year is to not allow my man to score," he said. "On offense, the goal is to never let one person stop me. I don't want anybody stopping me."
Carr's confidence coincides with that of the Dukes, who trotted out an array of underclassmen a year ago. They took their lumps, to the tune of a 3-25 record, but virtually everybody is back, a year stronger and a year wiser.
"I think we'll have the advantage now," Carr said. "Last year, we were younger. This year, we're older, stronger, better – it's time to win."
2013-14 Dixon Dukes
2012-13: 3-25 (1-9 NIB-12 West)
Advancement: Lost 57-43 to L-P in 3A regional quarter
Key losses: Tom Terranova, F
Key returners: Cal Jarrett, jr. G; Isaiah Roby, so. F; Laron Carr, jr. G
Opener: Dixon vs. Sherrard, 5:30 p.m. Monday at Orion Tourney