ISSAQUAH — You might say Gary Carr planned for this day. At the very least, he saw it coming. He stands 6 feet. His wife, Cita, 5 feet 3.
So when their son, Garrison, started getting serious about organized basketball, Gary did the one thing he thought could best prepare the boy for the big man's game. He took Garrison, then a skinny fourth grader, to the Rotary Boys & Girls Club and he told the coach: "I want him to play on a sixth-grade team."
Garrison recalls asking his father why he couldn't just play with kids his own age.
"Don't worry about it," he remembers hearing. "Just go play." And so that's what Garrison did, running up and down the floor, chasing bigger, stronger and taller opponents.
But there was a method to this madness, and if Garrison didn't grasp it then, he does now.
Father really did know best.
"That just helped my game develop quicker," Garrison said. "I really had to make sure I did everything right."
"I knew he wasn't going to be tall," Gary explained. "I wanted him to play with the big guys because he'd be playing with the bigger guys all his life."
Size always was the first thing people noticed about Garrison Carr. Sometimes it still is. Now a senior at Issaquah High School, Carr stands 5-11, weighs about 160 pounds, and in street clothes gives no indication of being a future Division I college player. But he is, having already signed with American University in Washington, D.C.
"Nobody really sees him as a basketball player until they actually see him on the court," said teammate Sven Gasser, who at 6-9 towers nearly a foot taller.
In four years as a varsity player, Carr has endured more than his share of size-related torment. Opposing fans heckled him almost from the moment he stepped on the floor, a 5-5, 112-pound freshman. "You're playing in the wrong game!" they yelled. Once, during his sophomore season, they chanted "Past your bedtime!" whenever he touched the ball. Last year, at Skyline, one guy came to the game dressed as a baby.
Carr said he takes such ribbing as a show of respect, a sign that people know who he is and of what he is capable. Were he not the reigning KingCo 3A Conference most valuable player, and had he not already scored 1,596 points — more than anybody in Issaquah history — maybe they wouldn't pay so much attention.
"If I were just out there running up and down, they wouldn't have any reason to get in my head and try to make me do bad," Carr said. "It pumps me up."
Carr dabbled in other sports as a youngster. He tried baseball, and showed promise as a middle infielder. He briefly tried football, the sport his father played at the University of Washington. But neither activity held his interest like basketball.
The summer before seventh grade, when Carr finally decided to narrow his athletic pursuits to a single sport, he said he spent nearly all of his free time in the gym, usually at St. Joseph's, mostly with former Eastlake star Nick Livi. Sometimes, the pair would take 1,000 jump shots a day, stopping only for food, refreshment and an occasional rest.
"Time would just slip by," Carr said.
Carr's father also arranged for Garrison to work with former Lake Washington standout Jason King, who at 5-7, had earned a spot on the team at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
"I used to pay Jason like $25 an hour to help G with his shooting," Gary said. "And I told Jason, 'At the end of the summer, if he's not a good shooter, I want all my money back.' "
The lessons and the time paid off. Carr made varsity as a freshman, scoring 18 points in the season opener against Bremerton and then-sophomore Marvin Williams. Carr kept on shooting, helping Issaquah to the Class 3A state-championship game as a sophomore, and shining as one of the few bright spots in last year's 8-16 campaign. This season, he's averaging 26.1 points for the resurgent Eagles (11-2 overall, 7-0 KingCo 3A), who again harbor hopes of a state-tournament berth.
"We still have a lot of room to grow as a team," said Carr, who also carries a 3.4 grade-point average. "I don't think we're close yet to being the best we can be."
The same might be said of Carr, who continues to defy the odds. The other day, he and his father were surfing the Internet when they came across a nationwide list of all of the players who had signed letters of intent during the early period. Gary Carr said the list contained some 600 names. But only about 30 of those players were listed at 5-11 or under.
Further proof that Garrison Carr stands tall in a big man's game.
Matt Peterson: 206-515-5536 or email@example.com