Derrick Caracter is at the center of an enormous issue yet again, but this time it's one vastly different than the countless number of others that have followed the freshman around like a plague since he arrived on campus this summer.
The much maligned Caracter has played like a madman in Louisville's last three wins, averaging 13 points and shooting 58 percent from the field. But before then he had appeared in just eight games, and had been the subject of numerous media pieces questioning whether or not he'd ever play another college game.
Playing in his first game in nearly a month, Caracter notched a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards against South Florida. He followed that up with an 8 point performance against Big East preseason player of the year Aaron Gray and Pitt. Then came his masterful 14 point/27 minute performance against Marquette where he looked like a player who could have been mentioned in the same breath as Oden, Lawson and Wright had he been this committed for five months.
Under the tutelage of Ellis Myles it seems like the kid has finally turned the corner, and may be the key to a once unthinkable Cardinal run in the NCAA Tournament; so what's the issue?
Well, what do you do with him now?
David Padgett went down with a foot injury just seven minutes into the South Florida game, enabling DC to show his stuff against the vastly inferior Bull front line. Then, a still ailing Padgett got in a bit of foul trouble against Pitt which allowed Caracter to log some quality minutes and go head-to-head with Gray. Against Marquette, Padgett was whistled for three fouls in the opening two minutes and played a total of just seven minutes, which was the only reason the Caracter show was on full display for those with ESPNU privileges.
"I've been waiting for this day to come, when I would come in and play big minutes with DP in foul trouble," Caracter said after the Marquette game. "I'm just happy to contribute to the team."
But what happens when David isn't in foul trouble or nursing an injury? That seems to be the rhinoceros blocking the TV in Louisville's lounge of happiness.
Padgett has emerged as the vocal leader and the heart and soul of this team, no one player has been more instrumental in this amazing turnaround than he has. Without his presence on and off the court, Rick Pitino might very well be staring a second straight NIT appearance directly in the face.
Caracter is (and I think we can all agree on this now) Louisville's most talented player. His presence is what will instill the most fear and panic into the coach of the Cardinals' first round opponent in the NCAA Tournament. Without him, Louisville has just been handily defeated by Marquette and there isn't nearly as much confidence with regards to the future in the voices of his teammates and coaches.
Still, as incredibly gifted as he is, Caracter doesn't rebound as well as Padgett, he doesn't defend as well as Padgett, and he doesn't possess the experience or poise that DP does.
The situation is coming, and everybody knows it.
The Cards are going to be locked in a tight battle in either the Big East or NCAA Tournament, Padgett is going to be playing extremely well, and Caracter is going to be on the bench wanting desperately to help his team.
When he does get in what happens? Does he try to do too much and turn the ball over or commit foul after foul? Or worse, does he mope and give a half-hearted performance because he feels that had he started his team would be up by 20?
Obviously the best case scenario is that Padgett does what he does, and then when he needs a four or five minute blow, a highly motivated Derrick Caracter enters the game and plays with the same enthusiasm and intensity he's displayed over the past week and-a-half.
But anyone who's ever been in a similar situation knows how hard it is to retreat back to that shady corner after you've acheived superstar status. It takes a great deal of selflessness and loyalty to your teammates and coaches, and it's going to be extremely interesting to see how this young man handles it all.
Keep it up big fella, we gotta have you
Getting Caracter to the point where he can effectively play the four should be an off-season goal, but it's out of the question as far as this year is concerned. Having DP and DC on the floor at the same time on offense could work, and the two could probably play together in the back of the zone, but if we continue to go man off of misses then we'd be in trouble because DC can't guard Dick Bavetta one-on-one let alone the power forward of a team competing for a conference or national championship.
So for now it seems that DC is stuck in a back-up role, and we fans are stuck praying that all of the attention he's been receiving won't cause him to pout if he doesn't get 20 minutes a game from here on out.
Caracter has already overcome several hurdles to get where he is right now, but the largest and most unexpected one might be right around the corner.