Carlton Fay's freshman season was a struggle. He scored what was then a career-high 11 points against Illinois State, but it was a brief highlight as he only averaged 2.4 points per game as he lingered behind senior forwards Matt Shaw and Randal Falker.
Then came Fay's sophomore season -- and it came in a big way. He opened the season with a double-double against Cal (Pa.) in which he scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Fay would go on to win the 2K Sports Carbondale Regional's Most Valuable Player as he scored 33 points in two games.
Fay would go on to score in double figures in 19 of the team's 31 games. He averaged 13.6 points per game over the season's first nine games. At times, he played as if he was Shaw's clone. Getting away with garbage buckets down low while also being a threat on the perimeter.
Fay should be able to build on a solid sophomore season as he enters his second year as a starter under head coach Chris Lowery.
But first, Fay (and the rest of Saluki Nation) will need to erase the above image from their memories. I was there in New York City as it happened, and believe it or not, it was uglier in person than it was on television. It didn't help when you've got Duke fans surrounding you, a creepy, smarmy old man "announcing" the game (to himself?) and a Duke student sports writer bitching about a small television/stats monitor in his seating area. Yeah -- it was that kind of weekend for all Salukis.
The good news is that Coach K's Blue Devils are not on the Salukis' schedule and would likely not meet up until the NCAA Tournament. It wouldn't matter anyway as Duke usually has found itself out after the first two rounds over the last few years. I wouldn't mind if it happened again. I digress. More on C-Fay.
A part of me wants Fay to take off like Shaw did in his junior year. After respectable years as a freshman and sophomore, Shaw went on to average 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in what turned out to be a Sweet 16 year for the Salukis. He shot 46.8 percent from the field, 80.7 percent from the free-throw line and 35 percent from the 3-point line.
Shaw, and Randal Falker for that matter, clearly benefited from having senior standout guards Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young in the backcourt.
However, a part of me remembers what happened to Shaw his senior year. He was good, but not as great as he should have been. In games in which he made his first shot, it seemed as if he was automatic. But if he missed his first shot, it felt as if it was going to be a long night in Saluki country. As a senior, Shaw saw his points per game jump to 12.7 and rebounds per game go up to 6.9 ... but at what cost? Shaw shot 41.4 percent from the field , 32.1 percent from the 3-point line and 76 percent from the charity stripe.
So, should we expect a breakout year from Fay? History tells me yes because the third year in the Saluki system is one that usually pays off the biggest leap in production. Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young did it. As did Darren Brooks and Stetson Hairston. You can add Kent Williams to the list, too. OK, so every year was a big year for Kid Kent. I'm sure you see my point.
Here's hoping Fay channels his inner Matt Shaw for his junior year. As for his senior year, well, we'll cross that bridge when we get there.