Oct. 25, 2009
Columbia, Mo. -
By Ronald Tillery
Memphis Commercial Appeal
DeMarre Carroll weighs just 212 pounds, but he would sign up for offensive line duty if his profession suddenly became football.
The Grizzlies' rookie doesn't put a lot of stock in size and physical gifts. He's about hustle and heart.
"I'm one of those dirty-work guys," he said.
Carroll's grit didn't go unnoticed over the past several weeks.
The 6-8 Birmingham native, capable of playing both forward positions, shined so much during Grizzlies training camp that he earned the fifth-annual Don Poier "Pride of Training Camp" Award.
An unscientific, team-wide poll made Carroll the pick.
Shane Battier, Lawrence Roberts, Hakim Warrick, Stromile Swift and Marc Gasol are past winners of an honor that's not sanctioned by the team, but is intended to distinguish the player who best displayed consistency and growth on the cusp of a new season.
Carroll figures he'll have a season without many accolades. It's clear, though, that Carroll will contribute.
"When you look at football, the quarterback is the one who gets to shine. But without those offensive linemen the team wouldn't be what it is," Carroll said. "O.J. (Mayo), Rudy (Gay), Allen Iverson might get the shine, but it's a team game. I feel like for us to get to the next level everybody has to stay true to themselves, and I feel like I'm a key component."
Carroll finished the preseason ranked among the top 10 rookies in rebounds (4.6, seventh), steals (1.4, eighth), field goal percentage (.500, seventh) and assists (2.5, ninth).
"He did more than what you would expect from a rookie," point guard Mike Conley said. "DeMarre had a really good camp."
The Griz drafted Carroll out of Missouri with the 27th overall pick in June. He'll be asked to spell starting power forward Zach Randolph because of a pectoral injury to backup forward Darrell Arthur.
Carroll also will see time at small forward when Gay needs rest.
"A lot of people doubted the pick, but he showed why he's here," Gay said. "He was one of the hardest workers every day. It seemed like he never took a play off."
That Carroll improved his perimeter shooting gives the coaching staff more confidence. Assistant coach Henry Bibby spent several days in the gym with Carroll shooting 2,000 jumpers.
"He pushed me when I was tired," Carroll said. "A lot of that goes unnoticed. He's been there for me from the start. My hat goes off to him."
The FedExForum faithful showed Carroll significant appreciation Oct. 17 when he dove over the Detroit Pistons' bench, tossed the basketball back into play and extended a Grizzlies possession during a preseason game.
Carroll received a standing ovation.
"I'm going to get several of those," Carroll said matter-of-factly, "because that's what I do. I hustle and outwork people. The crowd loves it. I've been a fan favorite everywhere I've been. Hopefully, I can be a fan favorite here."
Poier would have loved to describe Carroll's effort during Grizzlies broadcasts. Poier, a former high school football player, served as the team's television and radio play-by-play voice until his sudden death in January 2005.
He was 53, and will forever be known as the "Voice of the Grizzlies."
Don't count out The Answer
Veteran guard Allen Iverson participated in non-contract workouts with the team Saturday before a public scrimmage in FedExForum. A day after calling his availability a "long shot" for the team's season opener Wednesday against Detroit, Iverson sounded more optimistic.
"If it's up to me, I'll play," Iverson said. "I feel like I can go."
Still, Iverson said he'll abide by what the training staff decides.
Poier Pride Winners:
2005 - Shane Battier
2006- Lawrence Roberts
2006 - Hakim Warrick
2007 - Stromile Swift
2008 - Marc Gasol
2009 -DeMarre Carroll