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Men’s Basketball: Austin Carr inducted into Ring of Honor

Douglas Farmer | Monday, February 28, 2011

The numbers and accolades speak for themselves: 34.6 points per game in his career, 1971 National Player of the Year, an NCAA tournament-record 61 points in a game, another NCAA tournament-record 41.3 points per game in seven tournament games, the first overall pick in the 1971 NBA Draft.

The number on Irish legend Austin Carr’s jersey entered the Purcell Pavilion Ring of Honor Saturday, and the lower concourse of the Pavilion was christened the Austin Carr Concourse.

“When we decided as a part of the renovation of Purcell Pavilion to institute a ring of honor, Austin Carr was the logical first choice, the person whose name immediately came to mind,” Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick said Saturday afternoon. “It is important to us that [all Irish basketball players] know that the players’ concourse at Notre Dame is named after the greatest player to ever play here — Austin Carr.”

Carr, the most prolific scorer in Irish history, said he came to Notre Dame with one specific goal in mind.

“We wanted to put basketball on the map here at the University. That’s what it was all about,” he said. “Then I got here and realized, it’s going to take some work.”

Carr made quick work once he took the court his sophomore season — freshmen were ineligible to play varsity sports at the time by NCAA regulations. The Washington, D.C., native scored 20 or more points in 70 of his 74 career games.

His performance in the NCAA tournament highlighted his junior season. In the first round, Carr poured in his record-setting tally of 61 to top Ohio University, 112-82.

“The last shot, to break the record, it hit the back of the rim, went straight up in the air, and came straight back down,”

Carr said of his performance, which will undoubtedly be cited in three weeks when this year’s NCAA tournament begins. “I just put my hands up and said that’s it.”

An urging from Irish coach John Dee to pick up his defensive performance actually sparked Carr’s offensive outburst.

“The only other thing I remember, there was a guy named John Canine — he made his first six shots,” Carr said.

“Coach Dee came to me and said, ‘Look, are you going to play defense tonight or just sit there and watch him burn you up?’ … The rest is history from that point on.”

Three of the top-five all-time scoring performances in NCAA tournament history belong to Carr, as he averaged 52.7 points per game in the 1970 tournament.

Despite his tournament success, Carr said he always preferred to play on Notre Dame’s home floor.

“Some of those games, you almost felt like another power was here,” he said. “When I see players from other schools who played here, they say they always felt there was an extra something in this building that they just couldn’t beat …

Every time I took the floor, it was unbelievable.”

That “extra something” helped the Irish top No. 1 UCLA in January 1971, Carr’s senior year. Carr poured in 46 of Notre Dame’s 89 points that day.

“The UCLA game … was just off the charts,” he said. “The student body was unbelievable.”

Carr’s numbers remain the benchmark for Irish players, something senior forward Carleton Scott is aware of — especially since the number on his back, 34 — is now in the rafters beneath Carr’s name.

“It’s an honor to wear his number … He’s a great player to have come through here and he’s a great guy,” Scott said after Notre Dame’s victory Saturday. “Hopefully I can channel some of his Austin Carr.”

Carr said the fact that he now inspires athletes like Scott makes him most proud.

“I’m sort of at a loss for words because all I did was play basketball,” he said. “To me, it’s just hard for me to have the opportunity to have other young men who come to this school look at me in that light. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say — this will be an honor that I will always cherish, and I will live up to it until my dying days.

“I guess we did put basketball on the map.”