Freshman Carbajal seizes opportunity at GV

GVL/Bo Anderson

Ricardo Carbajal goes up for a layup earlier this season.

GVL/Bo Anderson Ricardo Carbajal goes up for a layup earlier this season.

Bryce Derouin

Seven months ago, redshirt freshman Ricardo Carbajal wasn’t even sure he’d be ready for the start of the season for the Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team.

Now, after a slew of injuries have hit GVSU, Carbajal has stepped up and thrived in the starting lineup for the shorthanded Lakers.

After injuries to sophomore Kristers Zeidaks and senior Tyrone Lee, Carbajal was inserted into the starting lineup against Lake Superior State University. Since then, he’s averaged 13.7 points per game on 69 percent shooting and five rebounds per game in his four starts, including a career-high 20 point outburst against rival Saginaw Valley State University
“I got the opportunity to start the first time here at Grand Valley and it gave me a lot of confidence,” Carbajal said. “It’s a joy because at the beginning of the season, I never even thought I would start all year coming in as a redshirt freshman. It’s great to be starting right now and got to keep it going.”

Last year Carbajal played in six games at Quincy before injuring his hip. He was never a fan of Quincy and planned to transfer during his first semester.

Carbajal popped up on GVSU’s radar after GVSU assistant coach Jeff Bauer was recruiting one of Carbajal’s high school teammates. After learning of Carbajal’s desire to transfer, Bauer began recruiting him and Carbajal made a visit to Allendale, where he ended up falling in love with the campus.

“He’s really been a good surprise scoring down in the post for us,” Bauer said. “His defense is getting better and better for us. The biggest thing Ricky does great for us is he has a really good nose for the ball, so he really hunts down the offensive rebounds and gets to the balls quick.”

Carbajal has quickly become acquainted with the players and coaches at GVSU. He’s done all this while trying to recover from the hip injury he suffered at Quincy.

“It was a tumultuous summer getting his hip healthy,” Bauer said. “He’s been playing really good. He’s been learning our system throughout the year here. We had a couple big guys go down and Ricky has just done a good job of getting himself ready to play and taking the most out of opportunity there.”

Carbajal received some advice from another Laker who had to deal with getting use to a new system after transferring. Senior captain Tyrone Lee transferred from Oakland Community College and last year was his first season at GVSU. Lee had a successful first year that resulted in him being named to the GLIAC All-Defensive Team.

“I just told him to listen to what coach has to say,” Lee said. “It’s easier said than done, but once you learn, and trust the coaches, it’ll be a lot easier for you on and off the court. He’s really come a long way. He learned how to fit in with the system and how to play his role to the best of his ability.”

Battling injury and making changes to his game to fit the system has made Carbajal’s recent success feel that much sweeter.

“Last year, I didn’t even know if I was gonna be able to play this year,” Carbajal said. “At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t feeling good either. I feel great to be able to play a full season this year.”

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