Patrick Cartier has gone from being one of the best players in Division II the last few years to a major contributor for the Colorado State men’s basketball team this season.
From establishing himself as a strong down-low presence to having the ability to step behind the arc and knock down 3-point shots, the graduate transfer forward has come into his own since moving into the starting lineup and has become the Rams’ leading scorer in Mountain West play.
A Wisconsin native, Cartier came to CSU from Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he left the program ranked seventh all-time in scoring with 1,624 points, sixth in made field goals with 640 and is the school’s career leader in field goal percentage at .652.
He was a two-time consensus All-American and Great Midwest Athletic Conference player of the year. He has two years of eligibility left to play for the Rams.
Several factors led to him choosing CSU over several other schools looking at him including Wisconsin, Marquette and Colorado.
“I chose Colorado State because of the family culture,” Cartier said. “Also, because they have the tools to help me develop as a player, person and a student.”
CSU head coach Niko Medved and his staff identified Cartier as a player who could help the Rams and he has lived up to the expectations the staff had for him.
He hasn’t had any trouble making the jump to Division I and in fact made an impact almost immediately for the Rams, scoring 12 and 17 points, respectively, in the Rams’ first two games.
“He’s a throwback guy,” Medved said. “He’s a different kind of guy. He’s an old-school guy. He can seal. He can score with either hand and he understands angles. He’s a difficult guy to get around and to cover. Our guys now are learning to find him. They’re doing a better job of understanding where he is, how to get him the ball.”
After being one of the first off the bench in CSU’s first 10 games, he got his first start against Peru State. In a game the Rams scored 115 points, he chipped in 12. He scored six in CSU’s next game against St. Mary’s and has scored in double digits ever since.
That includes a 23-point performance Tuesday against Air Force, which matched his season high. He also had 23 against Northern Colorado.
Since the start of Mountain West play, Cartier has led the team in scoring, averaging 17 points per game along with shooting 73.9%.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff and my teammates,” Cartier said. “They put me in real easy positions. I think defense is something I need to get better at, though, for sure.”
While his offense speaks for itself, defense is something he and Medved know he needs to work on. He ranks seventh on the team in rebounding, sixth on the defensive end.
“He has learned that he can do the same things, offensively, at this level that he was doing at the Division II level,” Medved said. “I think he has realized that, that he can do that. Now the challenge for him is on the other end of the floor, when night in and night out, you are playing against bigger, more athletic guys, he’s got to be better at that end and he knows that. But offensively, he’s hard to handle.”
His role has become even more significant now. The number of big men on CSU’s roster has taken two hits this season. The first came prior to the start of the season when 7-foot-1 junior center Jacob Jennissen was lost with an ACL injury. Then last week, 6-10 freshman forward Kyle Evans broke his thumb and will miss CSU’s remaining games.
That leaves Cartier, at 6-8, and redshirt junior James Moors, at 6-10, the team’s lone big men. The two stepped up when the team was playing without guards Jalen Lake and Tavi Jackson and have continued to play well since those two have returned.
“Obviously, we went through a little stretch with some injuries,” Cartier said. “We got to play on the floor together, which we definitely enjoyed a little bit, having a couple of big guys in there. I think we both complement each other really well in terms of when one of us comes out. James, he has a little more physicality and defensive presence. I think we do a good job being that yin and yang and playing well together.”
The Rams will need more of Cartier as they try to turn their season around. At 9-9 overall, the Rams are just 1-4 in conference play and have lost five of their last six games after falling to Air Force on Tuesday.
CSU will play at UNLV on Saturday before returning to Moby Arena next Wednesday for a late (8:30 p.m.) tip against San Diego State.