SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Derrick Caracter is the only UTEP player to have NCAA tournament experience, and he says he wears the Elite Eight ring he earned while playing for Louisville.
"I didn't play as well as I wanted to, and as much as I wanted to, and this time around, I have an opportunity to be a major contributor to my team," Caracter said.
That's music to the ears of Miners coach Tony Barbee, who is looking for Caracter to lead this team to an upset win against Butler. Barbee recalled recruiting the now-6-foot-9, 275-pound Caracter while an assistant at Memphis.
"We assume right away -- grown man," Barbee said. "Derrick coming out of high school was immature, spoiled and always a little bit lazy. When he went to Louisville at 17 years old, you think about some of the decisions we all made when we were 17 that did not get covered by the national media that we wouldn't have been so proud of. Derrick is a great kid, that was never in question.
"Once I heard that he wasn't blaming anybody else, he knew it was his fault, and he knew he had to change. Knowing he was a good kid from recruiting him from before, I thought he had a chance to turn a corner. He's grown up. He's matured. He's shaken that lazy label since being around me. Everything I've seen, he's been one of the hardest workers on our team."