Demetrius Carr opted to transfer from basketball-minded St. Joseph in Westchester to football-minded Immaculate Conception in Elmhurst after his sophomore year because he felt the change would help him to achieve his goal of playing football in college.
"I love football and basketball but I'm committed to football," Carr said. "I'm an all-around athlete but I felt football was where I would play in college. I transferred mostly for football. But I also wanted to play basketball."
He also wanted to play quarterback. Last fall, he guided IC to a 7-4 record and the second round of the state playoff. He attracted interest from Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois and Norfolk State in Virginia but they recruited him to be an athlete, probably a wide receiver or safety, not a quarterback.
But Carr wants to play quarterback in college. So rather than play another position at a Division I school, he chose to play quarterback at Minnesota State-Moorhead, a Division II school.
"It will help me to achieve my goals in life--get a good education and be able to provide for my family," he said. "I loved the coaches there. And I plan to major in construction management. I want to build and sell homes. They have a good program for that. It's a great place to be."
Ironically, the 6-foot-2 senior may enjoy more success in basketball than football at IC. "When I enrolled, I met the basketball players. They won the conference as sophomores. I thought we could have a great experience. I felt we could have a good year as seniors," he said.
Last year, the Knights posted the best record in school history (24-4) but lost to Walther Lutheran by two points in the regional final after beating the Broncos twice in the regular season. Afterward, coach Darren Howard left to become athletic director at Oswego and new coach T.J. Tyrrell returned with two starters, Carr and 6-foot-2 senior Adam Muellers.
IC is 17-5 after beating Montini 57-54 last Friday. Carr scored 24 points, converting four three-point shots, and limited Montini star Simmie Cobbs to only 10 points.
It was a playoff atmosphere as the Knights claimed a one-game lead over Montini and Elgin St. Edward with two games to play in the Suburban Christian's Gold Division. Seeking their first conference title since 2001, the Knights host Chicago Christian on Friday and play at Freeport Aquin on Saturday.
"We had lost to Montini by three points (58-55) earlier," Tyrrell said, "so it was very encouraging to see how the kids played and stepped up in a big moment."
IC has never advanced beyond the sectional. The 2007 team lost to North Lawndale in the sectional final. Tyrrell is cautiously optimistic about his 2012-13 squad. "Our goal is to win the conference title, then the regional after falling short last year. Anything after that we will be happy for," the coach said.
Tyrrell, 33, is in his first year as IC's head coach but in his 11th year at the school. An IC graduate of 1997, he played basketball for only one year after transferring from Downers Grove North as a junior. He sat out while his team suffered through a 1-25 season, then averaged 10 points per game for a 6-20 team as a senior.
"I only practiced as a junior. I was heart-broken. It was very difficult for me to watch that (1-25) team," he said. "But I was excited to play as a senior. I had a solid career, nothing flashy. I was team captain. In my third game, I shot 12-of-16 and scored 24 points against Amundsen. And I scored 25 points against Durand in a holiday tournament.
"But the most important thing that happened to me in high school was I met my wife, Natalie. She was homecoming queen and captain of the dance team."
After graduating from Dominican University in River Forest in 2001, Tyrrell went into business. But, on a whim, he sent a letter to IC and offered to serve as a volunteer coach. "I always wanted to get into coaching," he said.
He started as sophomore assistant, then varsity assistant, then freshman head coach, then sophomore head coach, then was named to succeed Howard this season. "My goal was to be a head coach. I didn't want to go anywhere else. I have great memories here. It felt like home," he said.
Although five of the first seven players from last year's squad graduated, Tyrrell had two excellent returnees to build around--Carr (16 ppg, 7 rpg) and Muellers (6 ppg). He surrounded them with 6-foot-2 junior Clark Brinkman (15.5 ppg), 5-foot-9 junior Sean Sutton (7 ppg) and 5-foot-10 junior point guard Anthony Taylor (5 ppg, 4 apg, 3 steals). Ross Flemming (6 ppg, 2 steals), a 5-foot-8 junior, and Rhashaun Epting (8 ppg, 5 rpg), a 6-foot-3 freshman, come off the bench.
"Carr us a great athlete, a man among boys with his physical strength and athleticism and his ability to go to the basket and rebound," Tyrrell said. "Muellers is the heart of our defense. He has 14 charges this season. He is one of the best on-ball defenders I have coached. He has a high basketball IQ. He defends the other team's tallest player."
It gets pretty physical at IC practice sessions. Tyrrell distribute football pads and the players work hard at attacking the basket and finishing with contact. "That's our strength offense, attacking the basket,"
the coach said.
"That's what I like about this team. The work ethic is amazing. We work hard in practice and push each other. We get a lot of contact in practice. We know we'll get it in games so we know it's for the better. We know if we go hard and finish, it won't be has hard in games. With pads on, it's like running into a linebacker," Carr said.
Tyrrell said the key to future success--unbeaten Winnebago could await in the Class 2A sectional at Byron--rests with working as a team and not relying so much on Carr. "We are most successful when we are all involved and Carr and Brinkman are working off the offense rather than creating for themselves," he said.
"It took awhile for us to bond," Carr said. "But it gets better every day and the play gets better every day as we get more comfortable with each other. If we keep pushing each other in practice, it will be great in the end. We knew this year would be great but we had to put work into it."