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Ex-North players in JC tussle

RANDY HAMMERICKSEN

Former North Medford High basketball stars Dan Carter and Jeff Nielsen playfully exchanged trash talk early in a junior college basketball game recently in Salem.

It was all in fun. Unfortunately for the former Black Tornado stars, their coaches didn't see this game as fun. It was war.

To coaches Jim Boutin of Lane Community College and George Libbon of Chemeketa Community College, the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges game was for first place in the conference standings and deadly serious.

Carter and Nielsen, two former North Medford post players, were matched up against each other. But early on, the two couldn't help but laugh at each other in fun.

He (Carter) got three fouls early, and they took him out with about 13 minutes left in the first half, says Nielsen, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound forward for Chemeketa. I told him, `You can't leave me. I need you out here so I can keep scoring.'

Carter smiled as he left the floor for the rest of the half. But it really wasn't funny.

He got me my third foul and I got taken out, says Carter. He got two three-point plays against me, and I was in foul trouble the rest of the night.

In the second half, Carter returned to the court for Lane with a sense of purpose. Nielsen or no Nielsen, he turned into an inside force.

He started making jump shots from 10 to 15 feet and powering to the basket. Plus, he seemed to grab every available rebound. He finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

He came back and lit it up, says Nielsen. I couldn't believe it. I'd never seem him play like that. He's really improved. He played a great game. He was awesome.

Nielsen admits it was tough to try to guard one of his best friends.

I can try, but I really can't stay serious with him for too long, says Nielsen, who played with Carter under North Medford coach Terry Gregg. We are too close to take it that serious.

Coach Gregg may not like to hear we weren't playing very good defense against each other.

Carter led Lane to a 73-65 win over Chemeketa. Nielsen finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in the loss. Former Eagle Point forward A.J. Campanelli helped Lane gain the win with seven points.

But Carter's big second half was the story this night.

Carter was incredible, says Campanelli, a 6-6 freshman forward. He was just impossible to stop. He's developed his outside game to go with his inside game. He can hit any shot inside the 3-point line now, which opens up his inside game.

Carter, a 6-6, 215-pound forward, leads the NWCCA in scoring, at 20.2 points a game, and rebounding, at 10.2 a game.

He's the best player in the league, says Boutin. He's improved his game in almost every area, and he's grown at least an inch.

He's been selected to all-tournament teams in all five tournaments we've played in. Dan was well-coached in high school, and he has great instincts. His shot release is so quick, he's scored consistently against a lot of tough defenses.

Nielsen, 20, was the most valuable player of the Shoreline Tournament in Seattle. Chemeketa won that tournament. He will transfer from Chemeketa to a four-year school at the end of the school year.

I'm looking at Sonoma State, says Nielsen. They've offered me a scholarship worth a lot of money. I definitely need to play for a four-year school that's going to pay for my education.

If Sonoma State doesn't work out, I'm open to anything, says Nielsen, who says two other possible choices could be Southern Oregon or Oregon Tech. But I need to go where the scholarship money is.

Meanwhile, Boutin says Carter may be able to write his own ticket to playing college ball.

I see Danny as a Pac-10 player in two years, says Boutin. He's been just a stud for us. He needs another year to develop into an outside player, but I think he will do that.

He could be a four man (power forward) or three man (small forward or wing) because his feet are quick enough and he can shoot quick enough. I believe he can play in the Pac-10. I've learned not to make a statement like that unless I believe it.

Carter hopes he's right.

I'm going to be back at Lane for one more year and then I'd like to play for a major college, says Carter.

Randy Hammericksen is the Mail Tribune sports columnist. He can be reached at 776-4499.