BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Before Stephon Carter landed a head coaching job at Centennial High School, he was busy leaving his mark all across Bakersfield in basketball starting at Garces Memorial High School and then at Cal State Bakersfield. He's now eager to continue doing that for the Golden Hawks this time as a coach.
He'd follow up his local career with a professional one overseas for six years but he's returning to town with two top-scoring records in tack at both Garces and CSUB. He's just going to trade the basketball for a coach's clipboard.
"Going back to Bakersfield and to be a coach is, you know, almost a dream come true," Carter said. "So I'm going to take it in and just, you know, go with the wave."
For the people who really know him like his former high school coach turned athletic director Gino Lacava and former college coaches Brian Dignan and Rod Barnes, Carter left a bigger mark off the court.
"He probably didn't even know he broke records here. That's not why he was in the game, he was he just wanted to compete," Lacava said. "On and off the court, he is just a magnet for people, and you know people like to be around him. His personality is wonderful and his work ethic is just off the chain."
But, yes, people don't forget about what he can do on the court.
"When I watched the Michael Jordan documentary, he has a lot of the intangibles of Jordan. The competitive spirit in practice, how he treated his teammates and tried to bring the best out of them, and bring them up to his level. That's what Stephon tries to do," Dignan said.
Carter is eager to rejoin the basketball community that raised him and the one he'll now coach against.
"They taught me you know how to be a coach how to be a player, how to be professional, you know, so they're part of my story also, so I'm sure they feel the same way like they're a part of my growth and they really were," Carter said.
"I spent a lot of time with Steph as a player and try to help him on and off the court. Just as my coaches did for me. And I know that that's what he's going to do for those kids have a heart for the kids," Dignan said.
"Let them know that it's not basketball. It's bigger than that it's about the character," Carter said.
And he's also hoping to expand his love of the game all across town.
"And that's what I want to kind of bring to the table, like, I want everybody to come support basketball as much as they do football," Carter said.
Like how he remembers when he was playing in high school. But you can bet this former Ram won't be shy showing his competitiveness when he enters his old gym as the rivals team's coach.
"You know the memories are gonna come back, you know because I was there when I was you know from 14 to 18 years old and just all those memories of you know, it's gonna all hit me in the face of course," Carter said. "But like I said, just going in and do my job as much as I possibly can and hopefully we can beat them, you know, honestly, I want to beat them."
"He's played in gyms all over the world but I can promise you when he comes back into this Garces gym where he was from when he was a little tyke and playing all these big games for us, it'll be exciting," Lacava said. "You know, we hope Stephon's team goes 26 and two this year."
The current Garces Memorial Head Boy's Basketball Coach isn't worried about facing Carter either.
"He's coaching, he's not playing so no nerves," Dignan said. "The nerves that we all have getting up for big games, getting up for exciting games."
But, maybe he should be.
"If I knew he was in the market I would have got rid of Digs and pulled Stephon in here," Lacava said with a laugh as he looked over at Dignan.
All jokes aside, the entire basketball community seems to be in support of Bakersfield's newest coach.
"Local high school star, all-time leading scorer at Garces, all-time leading scorer at CSUB, gone on to play pro, but now he’s back to help the kids just like somebody helped him," Dignan said.
"You know it doesn't matter where he is, as long as we got him back in our town it's gonna be fantastic," Lacava said.