- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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By now, everyone knows Derrick Caracter's story. He's the insanely talented big man (he was the No. 1 prospect at the start of his high school career), the guy who toppled Greg Oden at ABCD camp in 2006, the monster set to star at Louisville, the one who, after so many half-hearted tries, couldn't keep his weight under control and couldn't get motivated. After several second chances, Caracter left Louisville for good.
The big man ended up not playing big minutes for a loaded Louisville team (imagine a motivated Caracter on last year's No. 1 seed Cardinals) but rather seeking redemption at UTEP, where he's nominally managed to get his act together. It's a shame Caracter's Louisville career ended the way it did, but it's fun to see him figuring things out in El Paso. Who doesn't like a good redemption story?
Caracter seems to have more perspective now. The El Paso Times' Bill Knight talked to him about his time at Louisville and his time at UTEP, and Caracter seemed to boil it down to one disastrous habit: Chinese food.
"I had problems with the coach at the prep school and I didn't play that much and when I got to Louisville, I weighed 320-pounds," he said, shaking his head. "I was just eating Chinese food and doing unnecessary stuff. My first year at Louisville was cool. I felt some of the assistants were harder on me than the other guys, but that just made me better.
"It seemed like I had a certain leadership on the team," he said. "A lot of guys would follow me, do what I did, even dress like me. In some ways that hurt us and in some ways that was a good thing. But if I felt like I was better than David Padgett and I was not playing, I would be negative. Coach (Rick) Pitino felt it was like a cancer, that it would spread."
OK, so obviously Caracter isn't just blaming Chinese food. In fact, "Chinese food" and "unnecessary stuff" are really just code words for "horrific diet" and "penchant for bad lifestyle decisions," neither of which needs to be explained in detail. Which is good, because I love Chinese food. If Chinese food was really so responsible for costing Caracter his first shot at basketball stardom, could I still devour it with such gusto? Doubtful. I don't want to give up Chinese food. This is a huge relief.
In the meantime, Caracter is averaging 14 points and almost nine rebounds per game for a 16-5 UTEP team. The Miners are hot, too -- they've won their last five, including a huge overtime win at UAB on Jan. 30. It's far from the bright lights and top seeds of the Big East, but Caracter is finally making an impact. It's a shame it took this long for him to pinpoint the (deliciously fried) problem.
(Hat tip to Flubby for the link.)