OPINION -- Yutzy: The big boss Dawg
By Neil Fuller
Published in Sports on February 1, 2005 1:55 PM
The Princeton men's basketball team is no longer a one-man show. But make no mistake, senior forward Karter Yutzy is still the featured attraction.
With Yutzy steering the ship, the Bulldogs -- ranked No. 8 in the latest NCPreps.com 1-A poll -- enter tonight's pivotal contest at archrival North Johnston on a tear.
And leading contenders to gain one of the Class 1-A Carolina Conference's four NCHSAA playoff berths.
It's all miles away from where Princeton was only a season ago, when the team won a mere three games. Most people around the program credit Yutzy, who moved to the area from Pennsylvania during middle school.
"I think Karter has got to be the best player we've ever had at Princeton," Bulldogs coach Jeff Davis said following a 67-64 win at Spring Creek last Tuesday. "He's just a pleasure to coach. He works hard in practice and leads by example. He does the little things like taking charges and grabbing rebounds. I'm glad I got the chance to coach him.
"He's got to be the best player in the state on the 1-A level. I believe he is."
As a junior, Yutzy placed fifth in the voting for North Carolina's Mr. Basketball crown.
Yet modesty -- and a lot of it -- seems to be Yutzy's most-notable trait off the court. It's even cost him in a few instances.
Davis noted times when such NCAA Division I programs as Lehigh, Bucknell and Davidson mistook Yutzy's humble style for a lack of interest and backed off.
"He doesn't talk about himself," Davis said. "He's just not a flashy guy."
Despite his disdain for self-advertisment, Yutzy, a straight-A student who hopes to earn a degree in engineering, still draws plenty of hopeful college coaches each time the Bulldogs play.
But it's his team's play, not his own, that Yutzy chooses to concentrate on.
"We've been playing well as a team," Yutzy said after scoring a game-high 27 points at Spring Creek. "We've really come together. We're not turning the ball over, and we're getting the job done. We're getting the job done the way we should. There are other players on this team besides me."
Yutzy exited Princeton's first-ever win over Spring Creek averaging 23.9 points per game. The Bulldogs (14-5 overall, 6-3 Carolina Conference) then cruised past North Duplin 62-23 to cap an unbeaten week. Yutzy scored 20 points against the Rebels to move over the 1,700-mark in his illustrious prep career.
Princeton currently trails conference co-leaders Spring Creek and North Johnston by a single game in the loss column.
"Karter Yutzy is a good ballplayer," Spring Creek coach Sonny Kilpatrick said. "He's got a beautiful shot and knows how to get open. He doesn't mind driving the lane or pulling up for a 3. I think he's probably the best small forward in the conference. He can go anywhere and play that position. If college coaches aren't looking at him, they're crazy."
Kilpatrick's team handed Princeton a 27-point defeat earlier in the season. The Gators coach believes he knows what the difference was in the rematch.
"Yutzy's a great ballplayer, but he can't win games by himself," Kilpatrick explained.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Yutzy -- much like LeBron James -- has made every player on his team better. It's not just about scoring points any longer. It's also about seeing teammates such as Brandon Pate and Josh Thompson raise their play to all-conference status.
That's the real key to Princeton's winning ways.
"It feels good when all the guys get involved (in the scoring)," Yutzy said. "That's a real good feeling."
That kind of attitude is music to Davis' ears.
"He's just a pleasure to coach," Davis said. "I hate to lose Karter."
Princeton's loss will be one lucky college team's gain soon enough. Until then, losses are likely to be few and far between for this batch of Bulldogs.
(News-Argus sports editor Neil Fuller can be reached at email@example.com.)
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