MISSOULA — Ben Carter went from not knowing about the Montana men’s basketball team to committing to the Griz in less than one week.
He dropped the original school he planned to sign with, took the Grizzlies’ offer and traveled nearly 9,000 miles from Australia to Missoula without previously stepping foot on campus.
A 6-foot-10, 300-pound power forward with outside range, he played on Australia’s national scene the past few years. He won a silver medal in the under-20 Australia National Championships this spring, averaging 11 points and nine rebounds.
Less than 10 days since he came to Montana, the Missoulian caught up with him over the weekend at the Grizzlies’ camp for high school teams.
The interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Q: What was it like growing up in Adelaide, Australia?
A: I grew up in South Australia. Basically everywhere that you can live in Australia is on the coast. So I grew up around the beach.
Q: How many siblings do you have?
A: We’re a family of five. Mother, father, two older brothers. I’m the youngest. But I’m the only basketball player, so they’re a bit jealous.
Q: How did you get started in basketball?
A: I’ve always liked sports and lots of different sports. It came down to Australian rules football or basketball. I was better at basketball, so I stuck with it.
Q: What’s Australian rules football?
A: It’s a similar ball to the American football ball. It’s as physical as American football, except it’s more free with what you can do. It’s kind of like basketball where you can move anywhere.
Q: Did you play any other sports growing up?
A: A bit of tennis. A little rugby. Swimming. I’ve done a lot.
Q: What made you choose basketball?
A: As a young basketball player, I got to experience moving around Australia. I really enjoyed getting out of my home city and doing the sport I love. Basketball ticked all the boxes, and I was better at it.
Q: When did you think it’d be possible to play in college?
A: When I decided I was going to do basketball, that’s when I made the goal to play in college and then go to the highest professional level I can.
Q: How long have you been in town?
A: A week and a half.
Q: What do you think so far?
A: I love it. It’s pretty quiet, but really outdoorsy. I really love the outdoors, so it’s been wonderful. Haven’t heard anything bad about it. I’m excited for the snow. That’s purely because I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard that I’m not going to like it after a while.
Q: Any idea what to expect with the snow?
A: I’ve seen it in movies. Never in person. I know it’s going to be cold. But I don’t mind the cold. Hopefully that isn’t really a factor that affects me. I’m excited to see it.
Q: How does Missoula compare to where you grew up?
A: It’s pretty similar to Adelaide. Adelaide is a laid-back city compared to a lot of the other ones in Australia. It’s almost like home basically.
Q: Any favorite outdoor activities or something new you’d like to try?
A: I’d like to go snowboarding and skiing. We’ll see how that goes.
Q: Football is big at Montana. Is there anything similar to American football in Australia, and is it something you’re excited to be able to see more of?
A: I love contact sports. I’m very excited to go out and watch the Griz football team. There’s kind of similar stuff back home, but it’s nothing compared to American football.
Q: Did you have any favorite American sports teams growing up?
A: The Houston Rockets.
Q: How did you end up becoming a Rockets fan?
A: I was at a mate’s house five or so years ago. We’re watching the playoffs. One of my mates supported Houston and the other one supported the other team. So I was just like, ‘Oh, I’ll just go with Houston.’ It’s stuck ever since.
Q: Would you like to see LeBron James go there?
A: We’d have to give away half of our team to get him. I’m pretty happy with our team. LeBron’s LeBron, but it’s like half a team.
Q: Did you get to watch a lot of NBA games down there, or does the time difference throw it off?
A: The time difference sometimes is pretty difficult. I watch most games that I can if I’m free.
Q: Is there a player you like to watch that you try to model your game after?
A: Probably a Ben Simmons kind of guy. I love passing it. I feel like I’m a good passer. Probably his passing. I think I can shoot a little better than him. Some of the passes he does are crazy.
Q: Montana has had two recent players from Australia in Jack Lopez and Fabijan Krslovic. Did you play with or against them at all?
A: No. They were a little too old.
Q: There have been quite a few players from Australia, like Ben Simmons, who’ve played in college or made the NBA recently. Did you play with any of them in Australia?
A: I’ve played with guys who are in the college system. The NBA guys were a couple years too old for me to play with. The college guys from my hometown, there’s Jacob Rigoni at Quinnipiac, Isaac White at Stanford, Alex Mudronja at St. Mary’s, Lat Mayen at TCU, Owen Hulland at Hawaii and Brent Hank at Albany. That’s just the last two years.
Q: Speaking of school, have you already started classes here?
A: I’m doing two online this summer.
Q: Decided on a major?
A: I think I’m going to do a major in psychology and a minor in sports psychology.
Q: What got you interested in that?
A: My brother is an exercise physiologist. I was talking to him before I came over about what he thought I might like. He pointed me in the sports psychology or sports science area. Back home, I did psychology as a subject and I enjoyed it.
Q: Any idea what you’d like to do with it after basketball?
A: If I’m playing or not playing, I’d like to be around basketball, whether it be coaching or on a staff or working with the team. Hopefully sports psychology could help me get back into a team or help me in my career.
Q: Coming to Montana, how did the recruiting go?
A: I think it was all the coaches. I think they were all in a room together. They gave me a call. They said they were really keen on getting me over. My family and I did some research, loved the look of it. So that’s how it happened.
Q: How did it feel to get offered by Montana?
A: The whole family was over the moon. We were all really excited. The coaches talked about their success at Montana. I was shocked that they were interested in me because it’s a really good program and a really successful program. I’m really happy to be a part of.
Q: Had you ever heard of Montana before being offered?
A: Not the school, but I’ve heard of the state.
Q: How quick was it from hearing from Montana to committing?
A: It was like within the week. I was about to sign with another college, and Montana came it. It ticked all the boxes.
Q: What was the other college?
A: I don’t want to say.
Q: Was it a college in the US?
Q: Was it Division I?
Q: Well now you’re here, so what do you feel is the strongest part of your game coming in?
A: My passing. I think I’m a hard defender. And I can score if needed to.
Q: What do you see as the biggest areas to work on still?
A: Athleticism and body shape, which over the next 12 months will be a big improvement. Probably just on offense, working to make the right play. I’m happy with my passing, but maybe sometimes I’m not as aggressive as I should be.
Q: What weight are you playing at and what do you want to be at?
A: I’m sitting just under 300 pounds. I want drop maybe 30 pounds.
Q: What expectations do you have for yourself this coming year?
A: Just help the team do better than what we did last season. Want to go to the tournament, go through a couple rounds and maybe win it.