Kansas State guard Christianna Carr enters her junior season as a two-year starter, whose solid contributions on court, and as a leader, have helped her team to grow. She was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman team as a newcomer, after winning the conference weekly award twice. Last year she played a balanced game and filled in every column on the stat sheet.
This past June, as Carr and other Wildcat athletes protested social injustice after the killing of George Floyd, a student at the university tweeted a disparaging comment about Floyd. Carr and other athletes responded by saying they wouldn’t play if the student wasn’t kicked out of school. Shortly afterward, she received a direct message on her Twitter account of a cartoon image of a body hanging from a tree, with her head photoshopped onto it.
Carr grew up in Minneapolis and moved to Kansas as a high school junior, when her father Chris – who played in the NBA – got a job as an assistant coach at Kansas State for coach Jeff Mittie. Carr, who recently turned 21, has three siblings. Her major is communications studies.
So let’s start with last June’s unfortunate incident, where after you sent a tweet calling for action against a student who disparaged George Floyd, you were sent that photo in your Twitter direct messages. How did you feel about that, what happened afterward, and what did you learn from that incident?
When I first got it, I got a lot of death threats and nasty messages from people. I’d never received anything like that before. There are always going to be people who troll women’s hoops and say bad things about you because you’re a woman, and because you’re a woman and play basketball. But when I got that message I was like, wow. I don’t really understand why somebody would wish that upon somebody. I felt scared. I thought, do I send this to my mom? I don’t want her to freak out. So I sent it to my tutor and she said, you need to tell your parents as soon as possible. The FBI did an investigation and I talked to them. They said, we’ll talk to you and we’ll do our investigation, and you won’t have to hear about it again. I was in a stressful place at that point, and I told them, I’d rather just have you guys handle it. I haven’t heard anything more from that person, and I have no idea who that person is.
What have you learned about yourself and about life from this experience protesting social injustice?
It’s been a big learning period for me. It’s not only taught me how to use my voice in social injustice, but overall in things I believe in. I’ve looked at things with a different lens. A lot of people, including myself, have looked through the lens from what we’ve been taught. I’m lucky enough to have grown up in a house where we were taught to love everybody. As a little kid we had neighbors who were Muslim. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t come outside and play with me at certain times, why they couldn’t come over for lunch. Then I did their Ramadan stuff with them. During the month I’d not eat for the whole day with them, and then go over and eat the big dinner. I’d learn their ABC’s with them, and it was really cool, but I feel like that’s only a small scope.
I’d been looking through this scope of ‘love everyone,’ and then I ran into people who didn’t think like me, and I got mad. I’m half white, so I need to take stand for the people like my mom who does love everybody. When you come in contact with someone who doesn’t think like you……take the time to really understand why they think that way and counter it with facts, rather than countering it with anger. I took a lot of time to educate myself on these topics over the summer. The best way was to inject myself in a physical manner by going to protests, listening to people talk, watching videos and watching TED talks. I spent a lot of time in quarantine in my room with a laptop and a notebook, educating myself on why people think the way they think. One reason I got into communication studies is that it can help us grow together.
What kinds of conversations has the team had about social injustice? Did the Wildcats participate in any protests or demonstrations?
At first we weren’t together at the time, but we had a lot of Zoom calls. Once we started to get back here, the Jacob Blake situation happened. Our coach canceled practice so we could talk about it. When Jacob Blake was shot, we talked, and everybody got some things off their chest; there were some tears. At the time it felt like there was no kind of division, that everyone was on the same page. There was no gender and no skin color, no coach and player. It was sitting in a circle and trying to understand one another. I felt like it was a good raw, unedited way to experience that with your team. (Mittie) canceled practice because our hearts were heavy after we had that conversation. He said y’all can go to weights if you feel like it.
Recently put together a unity walk for our student athletes. We walked to Hern Field House….many school officials spoke, as did athletes from other teams like football and men’s soccer. It was just a great experience.
Going back to March, Big 12 teams were en route to the conference tournament when the NCAA shut down the season. How were you able to cope with the loss of the season and with entering the home quarantine world?
It was hard, and it was really weird to grasp what was going on. The Big 12 was in Kansas City this year, which is only two hours from us and easy travel. We got there, and by the time we put our luggage down we were told there would be no fans. When we began our first practice I saw our AD walk in….then coach told us to just play for the rest of practice. I thought, OK, the (conference) Tournament is cancelled.
Our AD was in tears. At that point we still thought there would be an NCAA Tournament, so we started the drive back to Manhattan. I woke up from my nap to over 50 text messages that said, “I’m so sorry about your season.” I looked at Twitter and saw our season was canceled. It all happened so quickly.
How did you spend your quarantine? How was the process in returning to school and practice, and what’s your daily routine like now as compared to previously?
Since my family does live in Manhattan, I did a lot of improvising with my quarantine workouts. I pushed my mom’s jeep around with my dad sitting in it. We have an outside hoop at my house, and I shot a lot. My brother and I would bike down to where there’s a hoop in the middle of nowhere, with a cornfield all around it. We’d bike there and shoot. So I can shoot really good in a big gym now.
When did you know basketball was for you?
It’s an interesting story because I didn’t start playing until I was in seventh grade. My first love wasn’t basketball – it was dance. My mom was a dancer for the Timberwolves and my dad played for the Timberwolves. That’s how they met. I was super into dance and I was on a dance team, but I was a little too tall for dance. I dilly-dallied in volleyball, but not at ahigh level. In seventh grade one of my best friends had boys basketball players over, and they taught her to shoot. I had no idea how to do that, and she showed me. From then on, I was playing.
Pretty soon I was in the gym with my dad, and I was getting pulled into things all the time. My dad had a gym in Minnesota, and I had a chance to work out with NBA players in seventh grade; I played them one on one. By my eighth grade year was the No. 5 player in the country. It all happened so fast. My goals went from, score five points in a game to, dad I want to be the top player in the country. It all happened within a year.
You’re only the seventh player from Manhattan, Kansas, to play at Kansas State. What made you pick the hometown team?
I grew up in Minnesota, and when my dad got the job he was like, we’re moving to Kansas. I didn’t even know where it was on the map. I had always got letters from K-State since my eight grade year, but my heart was set on UConn. I had also got an offer from South Carolina, and I was looking at UCLA. I didn’t know anything about K-State. My dad said, sit down and look at what schools really have to offer, because not every school’s going to be a fit for you. You have 40-plus offers, so the ball is in your court. You have the opportunity to find the best fit for you as a school.
So I sat down and looked at different schools, and being around K-State, I got to be in the facilities with my dad. I really started to fall in love with the atmosphere, and every time there was an unofficial visit, I was on the list. I went on every campus tour, and I lived 10 minutes away. But the thing that really sold it for me is when they played UConn here. It was sold out, and even tough our girls didn’t win, I saw the support from the fans and I looked at my mom and told her I wanted to commit. It truly was the best fit for me. I have never felt like it was the wrong decision.
What have you learned since you got to K-State? In what ways have you improved, and how are you looking to further expand your game and your leadership role?
My outlook on the game as a whole has changed – especially from last year to this year. In my freshman year my name was always in lights. I was getting so much attention and then my sophomore year hit and I was on the scouting report. I couldn’t just be a three-point shooter anymore – I had to expand my game. I really did struggle my sophomore year with my shooting percentage and motivation. So I changed my role this year. I was self-centered in the way I was thinking my sophomore year. My goal is to play in the WNBA, and I need to score more to do that. In reflecting on it during quarantine, I realized that I was a pain in the butt. I wasn’t shooting the ball that well, and even when we won I was pissed off because I wasn’t producing for the team. This summer I talked to coach Mittie, and he told me to hone back in on what made me a good player in the first place. So I went back to what made me really happy on my AAU team. What made it so much fun is that we shared the ball, ball trusted each other and wanted each other to succeed. So now this year it’s, how can I be the most unselfish selfish person possible? My new mindset has created trust with my teammates.
You seem like a joyful person. Where does that come from?
Honestly, my sister passed away when I was in second grade, from myocarditis. She was my best friend, we were super young. After she passed away, I looked at how joyful she was as a person. She was a light in my life all the time. In one second, it was taken away. We got into bed and were tucked in thinking there was going to be a tomorrow for her, and there wasn’t. I know it sounds really corny, but live today like it’s your last. You don’t know how many hearts you can touch during your time on Earth. She touched more than she knew as a four-year-old. I try to touch as many people as I can and put a smile on people’s faces. I thrive off good energy. I always want to try my best to be that light bubbly person in the room, making people laugh. If I can make people smile….you never know what’s going in on someone else’s life.
When we’re finally able to get back to a more “normal” life, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?
I have a lot of things on my list. After the season, my sisters and I were planning a Vegas trip with my mom. It would be great to go take a breath of fresh air and normality for a while.