A year ago at this time, Elijah Carter was being recruited by low- and mid-level Division I programs, just hoping to get a scholarship to play ball.
A year later, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Carter is one of the hottest prospects available, as evidenced by the fact that Cincinnati, Rutgers, Oregon, Texas A&M and Charlotte wanted him to attend college this fall even though he has already said he'll spend a prep year at Brewster (N.H. ) Academy.
"He plays like Kyrie Irving," one Big East assistant coach said, referring to the McDonald's All-American from Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick headed to Duke. "He's best friends with Kyrie Irving. His game is similar to his. He's not really a point guard. He's more of a scoring guard but he can play the point."
Added St. Anthony assistant coach Eric Harrield: "I've always said he was the second best guard in the state behind Kyrie Irving and I think people now are finally seeing that."
After de-committing from St. Bonaventure, Carter now holds offers from Rutgers, Cincinnati, Oregon, Oregon State, Texas A&M, Richmond, Charlotte, St. Joe's, Penn State and Creighton.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett planned to watch Carter Saturday at the Beast of the East at Albright College in Reading, Pa.
Even though some schools want Carter to enroll this season, he will spend a year under head coach Jason Smith at Brewster to mature academically and athletically.
"I knew I could go to a Big East school," Carter said. "That really wasn't my decision. My parents wanted me to take a year to mature."
Carter grew up in Paterson, N.J. but his mother, Valarie Carter, passed away when he was 12 and he moved to live with his father, Dale Sterling, in Willingboro.
He spent his first two years of high school at Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J., but Harrield said Carter didn't "really take [basketball] seriously."
"He played [basketball] because his older stepbrother, Khalil Murphy, played," Harrield said.
Carter ultimately decided to leave Life Center because "I didn't really think I was getting better."
Two years ago, he enrolled at St. Anthony to play for legendary coach Bob Hurley and stayed with his grandmother, Sadie Sterling, in Hackensack.
He committed to St. Bonaventure last October, something of a coup for head coach Mark Schmidt.
"St. Bonaventure fans should be excited about Elijah because he will get considerably better in the future," Hurley said in November.
Carter's stock really began to rise this past season after he dropped a career-high 31 points, including five 3-pointers, in St. Anthony's win over Oak Ridge Military Academy in the PrimeTime Shootout.
"That was my turning point," he said.
In March, Carter put up 28 points and 14 rebounds when St. Anthony beat previously unbeaten Paterson Catholic, 63-49, in the North Non-Public B title game at Rutgers. PC was ranked No. 3 in the nation at the time.
"It feels good," Carter said that night. "I grew up with them playing against them when I was younger so it feels good to come out and get the win."
Off the court, Carter said playing for Hurley "pretty much changed my life."
"Coach Hurley, he taught me a lot," Carter said. "He taught me the right things to do, the wrong things to do. He changed my game tremendously. When I went to St. Anthony I wasn't as good as I am now.
"Off the court he taught us lessons about life. I was never a bad kid. I never got into trouble. [But] all kids have thoughts of doing things you shouldn't be doing."
Added Harrield: "One of the great things about him coming to St. Anthony, Coach Hurley instilled in him discipline and work ethic that I think will take him very far."
After averaging 15 points, six assists and five rebounds at St. Anthony, Carter was somehow left off the roster for the Jordan Brand Regional Game at Madison Square Garden in April. But he went out and dropped a game-high 42 points in New Jersey's 124-119 double-OT loss to Connecticut that day.
Two nights before, he poured in a career-high 55 points when his New Jersey Roadrunners beat Waterview Triple Threat 126-119 in the Donofrio Classic in Conshohocken, Pa.
In April, four St. Bonaventure players were charged with harassment and disorderly conduct in connection with an on-campus fight in which two men were stabbed.
Also in April, Dino Presley left St. Bonaventure to join Tom Herrion's staff at Marshall.
That's when Carter decided to open up his recruitment because he "didn't have a strong relationship with anyone from up there," Harrield said.
Said Carter: "I opened my recruitment back up and [I wanted to] make sure I was making the right decision with everything."
Carter then opted to spend a prep year at national powerhouse Brewster, which many feel will benefit him in the long term.
"Coach Hurley feels he needs another year of maturity, growing up, getting a little stronger, playing a little harder," the Big East assistant said. "If he puts it all together, he's really talented.
"He's got a chance to be really good."