Opportunity opens doors for DeMarre Carroll

After fighting for minutes early in his career, Carroll has emerged into a reliable starter.

NEW YORK — Junkyard Dog.

The term has stuck with DeMarre Carroll ever since his uncle, former Missouri coach Mike Anderson, coined it for his nephew to describe his hustle on the court.

“It’s carried over,” Carroll said. “Everybody likes it. Commentators use it. I appreciate my uncle for the nickname.”

After bouncing around four NBA teams during his first four seasons, Carroll has finally found stability. Starting at forward for the Atlanta Hawks, Carroll is having a career year, averaging 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, both career bests for the Eastern Conference’s fourth best team.

“It feels good,” Carroll said. “Knowing that you can get there and show what you do and be the junkyard dog that I am and really help the team. It feels good, and I think I’m doing a good job.”

The heart and soul of the Tigers’ 2009 Elite Eight team, Carroll had to fight for playing time during stints with the Grizzlies, Rockets, Nuggets and Jazz, before getting a shot with the Hawks.

“He stayed really patient,” said Carroll’s former teammate Jarrett Sutton. “He works really hard, and he’s come a long way. He became a pro. You can’t be a kid anymore when you’re in the NBA. You have to keep getting better, and that’s what he’s done.”

Carroll credits his season to the chance the Hawks gave him to start and be a regular contributor in their rotation.

“It’s all about opportunity,” said Carroll, before going for 10 points and seven rebounds in a 91-86 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. “A lot of guys in the NBA can play. It’s just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunity. I’m just trying to be a true professional.”

While Carroll is still in the midst of the season, he’s already working on his plans for the All-Star break — a trip to Columbia.

“I’m really trying to get back for the game versus Arkansas over the All-Star break,” Carroll said. “I can’t wait to get there and see the atmosphere between my uncle and my former team.”

Despite graduating from Missouri four years ago, Carroll has stayed fresh in the loop with his alma mater, thanks to Hawks assistant and former Tigers coach Quin Snyder. The two talk Missouri basketball “all the time,” Carroll said, which has kept the former Tiger up to par on the team’s happenings.

Despite missing a few games due to a sprained thumb, the “Junkyard Dog” is optimistic about the injury, and even more optimistic about his professional career after thinking about his season so far.

“I think I found my niche,” Carroll said. “This is only the beginning.”

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