Starkville Academy guard Carnail Minor knows basketball.
Having grown up around the sport, the Volunteer understands the game better than most athletes well beyond his years. That knowledge of the game is just one of the many things that leads Starkville Academy coach Mark Alexander to call Minor a “joy to watch.”
“What I really want to say about Carnail is that he is probably one of the smartest players I have ever coached or been around,” Alexander said. “He has a high basketball IQ. I learn myself from watching him. He is just a really smart player and on top of that, he is a really good kid. He is a ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’ guy. He has a great attitude and personality and has just been a joy to be around from day one.”
Minor grew up in a family of competitiveness that includes three brothers and two sisters, but of all the competitions, basketball stood out. The senior’s fondness for the sport further stems from his father Tony who coaches junior high basketball at Armstrong Middle School.
“My dad gave me a basketball when I was 2-years-old, so I have been playing basketball all my life," Minor said. "Being a coach’s son, you have to work hard every time you go to the gym. You do drills all the time. He would have me running and all of the stuff that only makes me better.”
Minor’s coach agrees with him that having a father who understands the game of basketball has only aided in the development of the young Volunteer as a player and more importantly as a leader on the court.
Alexander explains that while Minor may not be the most vocal athlete on Starkville Academy’s roster, he is more than willing to let him lead the team during games thanks to his excellence in character and the example he sets.
The task of leader is one that Minor does not take lightly, but rather says it pushes him to continuously work harder not only for himself but for the entire team of Volunteers.
“It feels good to know coach trusts me with the team and to run things during the game,” Minor said. “That trust makes me work harder, because I know that as a team we have to continue to work hard during practice and not give up.”
Last season was Minor’s first at Starkville Academy and it would have been easy for him to give up, but instead he persevered and now with the help of his teammates, things are “starting to click” and turning around for the Volunteers.
Alexander further expounded on the struggles Minor and his Starkville Academy teammates experienced in 2011.
“Last year, Carnail came in and while we were excited to have him last year was tough for him,” Alexander said. “First he had the adjustment of moving to the academy and then on the court, Brandon (Sharp) got injured so Carnail was forced to play point and that is not his true position. He’ll be the first to tell you that he is much better at the two or three, but he stepped up and did what was asked.”
Sharp has since recovered and his return to the team meant Minor could return to his natural position of shooting guard. A place where he feels comfortable and as his coach says takes the ball handling pressure off and “frees him up to shoot the ball.”
“The thing about Carnail that stands out the most is his ability to shoot the ball,” Alexander said. “He has a pretty shot and he is one of those that when he shoots, you almost expect it to go in. You don’t see a lot of guys now that are just really good shooters. That is the thing that stands out the most about him on the floor and what he brings to us basketball wise.”
Since making his return to guard, Minor’s statistics have steadily climbed from previous years. In 12 games this season, he’s averaging 14.7 points per game, while shooting 42.8 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from 3- point range. Minor has scored 19 or more points four times this year, including a season-high 28 in a road win at Oak Hill.
With all of his success on the court, it is no wonder that Minor can't help but glance towards the future, one in which he hopes to see conclude with a spot on the all-star team and his team competing for an Overall State championship.
Looking passed this season, Minor plans to continue playing basketball at the collegiate level. While he has not honed in on one certain school, Minor does know that he wants to major in teaching and coaching, so that he can impact future players like his father and coach have done for him.
Take one look at all Minor has accomplished and it seems basketball takes up the majority of Minor’s life, but that is not the case. Off the court, the senior still finds time to spend with friends and family.
It is in those off the court moments that his coach begins to see the true Minor shine through, and it is one that he can certainly appreciate and admire.
“Carnail and I are similar in a lot of ways and I think that is why we have clicked from the very beginning,” Alexander said. “If you don’t know him, he is kind of quiet and shy and reserved. He is always polite and respectful, but he just doesn’t say much. Last year when he got here, everybody said ‘hey the new kid doesn’t talk a whole lot,’ but once you get to know him and he opens up to you, he is really funny. He has a great personality and he is just one of those kids who loves to play. He loves being in the gym and rarely does he have a bad day.”
Starkville Academy is in the heart of its schedule and Minor’s time as a Volunteer might be winding down, but for him, there is no time like the present to put in the hours and to work hard towards making his goals a reality.