Carlton Myers: The 87-point man

Carlton MyersForum Valladolid was never one of the big clubs in Spain, it never won any titles, but it has the honor of having had on its roster three of the greatest players in European basketball: Arvydas Sabonis, Oscar Schmidt and Carlton Myers. The Lithuanian Tzar and the Brazilian Holy Hand were already talked about in this series about the great players of the past. Today I will talk about the Italian shooter with Jamaican origins from his father. Carlton Ettore Francesco Myers was born in London, where his parents worked, on March 30, 1971. When he was 10 years old, they moved to Rimini, a small Italian city on the Adriatic coast where, until he turned 17, nobody saw Carlton as a future basketball star.

Ball for flute

Myers’s father was a musician, a saxophonist, and it was logical that Carlton would follow his footsteps, even though he chose the flute. In between school and music lessons, young Myers played basketball, but before turning 17, it was only a hobby. Little by little, however, basketball starter taking over and ended up defeating the flute. Carlton Myers dropped music school, convinced that his future was in basketball. From 1988 to 1992 he played in the Italian second division for Mar Rimini. He started with 2.5 points in the 1988-89 season, and in the next one he improved to 5.9. His true explosion came in 1991-92, when he averaged 26.8 points! After shining in the Italian second division, he signed for Scavolini Pesaro as the great prospect of Italian basketball. During his first season, in 39 games, he averaged 16.8 points while shooting 33.5% from the arc, his biggest weapon in the decade that was about to follow.

In a story published in Spanish newspaper “Mundo Deportivo” during the holiday break of 1992, his Scavolini teammate Haywoode Workman explained the playing “system” of Scavolini: “It’s pretty simple. It’s about giving the ball to Carlton so that he decides what to do with it at the right time.”

That’s the same recipe used by all coaches who were fortunate enough to have Myers on their team. Standing at 192 centimeters, he was a natural-born shooting guard, but his talent had much more in store. His shot, especially from downtown, was his lethal weapon, but many times he was the best passer or rebounder on his team, too.

Index rating 94!

During his second season with Scavolini, his scoring average was already 25.1 points and he was shooting 40.7% on threes. For the 1994-95 season, he went back to Rimini, in the second division, where he scored 29.6 points per game. On January 26, 1995 he got his name on the history books of Italian and European basketball by scoring 87 points against Udine, the most ever at the Italian professional level. His previous personal high was 51 points with Scavolini in the first division. Against Udine, he had an incredible shooting night: 14 of 22 two-pointer, 9 of 19 threes and 32 of 35 free throws. His final index rating was 94! As far as I know, nobody in the modern era of European basketball has reached those numbers. Nikola Mirotic of Real Madrid had an index rating of 84 at the Ciutat de L’Hospitalet junior tournament in 2008.

However, Myers’ 87 points are not the European record. The world record at the professional level belongs to Erman Kunter, who managed to score 153 points, 81 in the first half, with Fenerbahce in the Turkish League against Hilaspor in 1988. Radivoj Korac scored 99 against Alvik Stockholm during the 1965 Euroleague; Drazen Petrovic destroyed the Union Olimpija junior team (sent to the game by the club’s decision after a sanction) with 112 points in the first game of the 1985-86 season; a week later, Zdenko Babic of Zadar scored 144 against Apoel of Cyprus in a Korac Cup game. But in the last 20 years in Europe, nobody touches Carlton Myers’ mark. What is true is that, after three quarters, the coach and his teammates realized it could be a historic milestone and they looked for Myers on each play.

Euroleague record

Between 1995 and 2001 Myers played with Fortitudo Bologna, the following three seasons he played with Virtus Roma and then he spent the first half of the 2004-05 season with Montepaschi Siena and the second one in Spain with Forum Valladolid (21.3 points in 28 games). After that, he was back to Italy and Scavolini and then, in 2010, he put an end to a brilliant career with Riviera of Rimini. Behind him, 637 Italian League games with an average of 19.5 points – 39.4% for three, 51.4% for two and 85.2% for free throws. He was Italian champ with Fortitudo in 2000 and also won the Italian Supercup and Italian Cup with the same team in 1998, being named MVP of the final. He was named MVP of the Italian League twice, in 1994 and 1997 and he was the top scorer of the 1997 Euroleague, but one can see that he is still missing a European title at the club level. He tried several times, but he never went farther than the semifinals. However, he still holds a Euroleague record: his 41 points against Real Madrid on March 7 of 2001 is still, together with Kaspars Kambala and Alphonso Ford, the best scoring mark in the modern day Euroleague, since 2000. In that game, which Fortitudo won by 88-70, Myers had also his index rating high: 45.

Crown in Paris

However, the results with the Italian national team make up for his lack of international titles with clubs. He made his debut in blue during the 1993 EuroBasket in Germany and did well, 14.3 points per game. After missing the 1995 EuroBasket in Athens, he was back for the following one in 1997 in Barcelona and he won the silver medal, after falling to Yugoslavia in the final by 49-61. He was the top scorer in that final, with 17 points. In the group stage, Italy defeated Yugsolavia (74-69) on 24 points by Myers, but in the title game Yugoslavia was better with Predrag Danilovic at the helm. The rivalry between Myers and Danilovic had moved from Bologna – the former with Fortitudo, the latter with Virtus – to the international stage. In Barcelona 1997, Carlton Myers’s figures were 15.8 points, 1.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists.

The best was yet to come however. In the 1999 EuroBasket in France, Myers led Italy all the way to the gold medal. His 16.3 points, 3.0 assists and 1.6 rebounds in 30 minutes per game were key for the Italian triumph. In the title game against Spain (64-56), he scored 18 points. He nailed 22 against Turkey, Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and then 20 against the Czech Republic. Coach Bogdan Tanjevic had life insurance in Carlton Myers, the man who scored when the team most needed it. He scored many points from the foul line because he kept drawing fouls when shooting or penetrating. However, fouling on him was not a very good idea because he hardly ever missed from the line. Over his career, Myers made 85% of his free throws.

At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the great career of Carlton Myers was recognized by the Italian Olympic Committee, too, as he was chosen to be the Italian flag bearer during the parade of nations at the opening ceremony.

He scored 40 points or more 17 times in the Italian League, however his feats not always served for a win:

“Scoring more than 40 points and losing the game kills me,” he said many times. “It’s just a useless performance and the truth is that it makes me feel bad, because we didn’t reach the main goal, which is winning the game.” An example were his 41 points in the fifth game of the final series of the Italian League in 1997 with Fortitudo against Benetton Treviso. His team lost the game, and the title, by 84-82.

When he retired, at 40 years old, the then president of the Italian basketball federation, legend Dino Meneghin, said about him:

“I hope that young players today can watch and study the videos to see how he played. Carlton Myers was an example for everyone.”

I agree 100 percent. If young players want to see how a great shooting guard should do his job, I also recommend watching Carlton Myers videos.

(January, 2014)