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Top dog

Basketball forward DeMarre Carroll protects his turf

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  • Story by Ryan Gavin
  • Photos by Shane Epping
  • Published: March 3, 2009
DeMarre Carroll

Senior DeMarre Carroll, nicknamed the Junkyard Dog, lets loose a roar prior to games. The ferocity of the yell is equal to his tenacity on the court.

Senior DeMarre Carroll’s menacing mug is a memorable one for Mizzou fans. Before the team is introduced at each game, the Mizzou Arena scoreboard flashes a video of the Junkyard Dog letting loose his trademark battle cry. Carroll – who earned his canine moniker through tenacity – backs his passion with his game, making him a force to be reckoned with. The Junkyard Dog and the rest of the Tigers plan to complete a perfect home season Wednesday night by shredding Oklahoma.

So how did Carroll wind up with such an odd nickname? Over the summer, the guys were playing some basketball, and one of them called Carroll a dog because of his constant hustle and fight.

“Then somebody said, ‘Man, you’re just like a junkyard dog!’” Carroll says. “So it just went on since then.”

Leading the pack

The fifth-year senior nearly didn’t come to Mizzou, though. His freshman and sophomore years, Carroll played at Vanderbilt, a member of the Southeastern Conference. Then in 2006 the Tigers hired Carroll’s uncle, Mike Anderson, who was making the leap from a mid-major program to a role as head coach of a school in a power conference. Carroll decided to transfer to Mizzou to follow him.

“At Vanderbilt, it was more of a Princeton-style offense, and even though I had a good sophomore year, I felt like I wasn’t becoming the overall basketball player I wanted to become,” Carroll says. “I came to Mizzou because my uncle allowed me the freedom to do the things I needed to do to display my talents; thus far it’s been a blessing.”

The feeling, Anderson says, is mutual. Not only have Carroll’s basketball skills grown, but the once-quiet forward also has become the unquestioned leader of the team.

“DeMarre’s always been one of those guys that, each play, he works so hard,” Anderson says. “You’ve got to have a leader like that, and to me, leadership is something you earn. It’s not given. The guys listen to him and follow his lead.”

Freshman Kim English, one of seven newcomers to the team this season, appreciated Carroll’s guidance right away.

“At first he was quiet cause he likes to see if guys are as hard working as he is,” English says. “Then he’ll open up to you when he sees you diving on the court practicing and stuff like that. He’ll gravitate to you.

“He’s an emotional leader. He talks to me what seems like every time we go up the court. He’s always on me during practice because he expects a lot from us. I respect that because he’s a huge help on and off the court.”

Bark and bite

DeMarre Carroll

Forward DeMarre Carroll protects the ball on an offensive drive during the first half of the game against Nebraska. Mizzou won 70-47 on Valentine's Day.

Carroll has been true to the nickname in every manner. Just as a junkyard dog protects its turf, Carroll has helped the Tigers protect their home territory. A win against the Sooners would make them 18-0 on Norm Stewart Court, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Stewart himself was still leading the team during the 1993-94 season at the Hearnes Center.

“It’d mean a lot to us,” Carroll says about the potential win, particularly alongside fellow seniors Matt Lawrence and Leo Lyons. “One, [we] would be the first group to go undefeated at home for a while. Two, we would beat a top-5 team. And then three, it would be a big win for our program going toward the postseason.”

Mizzou Arena should again be rocking with a fifth-consecutive sellout crowd anticipated. More than 15,000 fans will be packed into the arena, trying to establish the home of the Tigers as one of the most difficult places in the country to play college basketball. And with huge Big 12 Tournament seed implications, in addition to those of the NCAA, Mizzou needs to close on a high note.

“We want to finish off what we started,” Anderson says. “It makes a statement that Mizzou Arena’s going to be a place you have to come in and play awful, awful well if you want a chance to win. We’ve got excitement in the building; there’s a buzz. It’s fun. It’s entertaining. It’s happening.”

With the Tigers tearing toward their best record in 15 years, it’s tempting to put the season in context. How does this team want to go out? How does it want to be remembered?

“We wait until after the season to look back on things like that,” says Carroll, his gruff expression not allowing even the hint that the team has enjoyed the 24-5 run to this point. “Right now, we’re still trying to win games and make history out of this season.”

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012