Mike Carrera Remains Gamecocks MBB Fan Favorite


It only took one game for Michael Carrera to become a fan favorite, and three years later his energy, hustle, and fight have kept him as one.  As a true freshman, starting in his first ever collegiate game, the undersized forward exploded for 18 points and 15 rebounds, the latter still standing as his career high.  Playing with the same tenacity and fire that Frank Martin coaches with, it is easy to see why he was the first recruit brought into the program when Martin took over.

Carrera, a 6’5” forward from Venezuela, has earned the love of Gamecock nation with his relentless play and seemingly endless enthusiasm during games.  Diving on the floor after the ball, taking a charge on defense, or fighting two opposing players for to secure on offensive rebound are just a few of his actions that get the crowd at the CLA out of their seats to cheer.  He is aware of his ability to inspire the fans, either waving his arms to get the people on their feet or letting out one of his primal yells trying to jumpstart the energy of both the crowd and his teammates.  Throughout the years, many teams have had a glue guy, that does the dirty work for them, and in most cases that player is beloved by fans for his effort while being hated by opponents for the same thing.  For the Gamecocks, Michael Carrera is that player.

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Often outsized by opposing forwards, he embraces that challenge and uses his energy and instincts to help him overcome the height disadvantage he encounters when dealing with bigger post players.  His effort and intensity reaches beyond just game day, as twice in his career the junior has been forced to miss time due to concussions sustained during practice.  Going 100% in practice is seen as a foreign idea to a lot of younger players these days, but not Mike, who goes so hard he hurts himself.

While he would never be confused with and offensive juggernaut, he has proven to be an effective scorer, who can on occasion have big nights.  His first career game is one of six double-doubles he has in three seasons, and he has been only a point or rebound away from it at least 10 other times in his three seasons in Columbia.  His best game also came as a freshman, when he had a 27 point 13 rebound performance in a win at LSU.  He finished that season with averages of 9.9pts and 7.5 boards, but unfortunately he took a step back as a sophomore.  With Coach Martin trying to play him more on the perimeter, looking towards a possible future pro position based on his height, Carrera was out of sorts for most of the year and never settled into his new role.  By the end of the year he had moved back to playing in an interior role, and looked more comfortable to go along with improved numbers down the stretch.

Dec 21, 2014; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks forward Michael Carrera (24) leaps to block the shot of Coker Cobras guard Jordan Scott (32) in the first half at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

This season has produced uneven results in terms of Mike’s numbers, but his energy and his big smile have been back on full display.  Once again in his more familiar role of an undersized post player, he has played more like he did as a freshman than as a slumping sophomore.  One of those aforementioned concussions in practice, coupled with a hamstring issue, forced him to miss three games in December, and it wasn’t in until the third or fourth game in SEC play that he looked like he was back in rhythm.  He amassed a run of 5 games with at least 9 rebounds in late January, to show his energy had returned, but was still struggling to score consistently.  Down the home stretch of this season though, his aggressiveness on offense has begun to rise, with him adding a nice mid-range jump shot and the occasional 3 pointer to his array of put-backs and finishes in the paint.  In the last 5 games of SEC play, Michael Carrera has been as reliable as any player on the team, averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds per contest over that time.

The Gamecocks now move towards the SEC tournament and a 1st round match-up with a Missouri team they beat earlier in the season.  They will need to win at least one game to ensure a .500 or better record and avoid a sixth straight losing season.  If you watch any of their games in Nashville this week, Carrera shouldn’t be hard to find, if you see a guy dive on the floor or in to the stands, or see players tangled up over a loose ball, you can bet that South Carolina’s number 24 is involved.