Redemption & Renewal

LanceCarter0751cmyk
LanceCarter0751cmyk

Lance Carter came to Tabor College to play basketball. A self-described lover of the game, Carter worked his way into the Bluejays? starting lineup essentially from the beginning.

But the 6-foot, 4-inch athlete?s journey was not always smooth or filled with success. A tumultuous off-season a year ago resulted in his dismissal from school, making him question his place in Hillsboro

Yet today, Carter is back at Tabor, a starting member of the basketball team. His story of transformation and faith testifies to the power of second chances.

Journey to Tabor

Carter, who grew up in Troy, Ohio, said basketball was his focus from the beginning.

?Obviously, I love the game,? he said. ?I love winning, which can get me into trouble sometimes, but I?m a competitor. I was the youngest of my siblings, so I felt like I always had to fight and scratch for any win I would get.?

Following two years of prep school, first in Indiana and then in Florida, Carter made plans to walk on to the basketball team at Bowling Green, where he had enrolled.

Two weeks before classes started, Carter received a phone call from Tabor assistant basketball coach Anthony Monson, who wanted to discuss the possibility of playing at Tabor.

?I was in contact with (Coach Monson) for maybe a week before committing and then just got on the bus and came,? he said. ?They picked me up in Emporia. I hadn?t visited or anything.?

Head coach Micah Ratz?laff said it didn?t take long to recognize Carter?s talent.

?His size and strength, his ability to handle the ball and make plays was just really unique,? Ratzlaff said. ?He got better and better through preseason, and he got in shape, and it was automatic, ?We?re going to start Lance, and then who else are we going to start with him?? He was a little hot-headed, a little short-tempered, but his will to win was evident from the very start.?

During his freshman season in 2013-14, Carter put together his best performance in the KCAC tournament championship game, scoring 42 points and grabbing 17 rebounds to lift the Bluejays to an overtime win over Sterling.

Tabor advanced to the first round of the NAIA championships that year, where a first-round loss concluded the 20-13 season.

?I always liked it here, thought it was fun, but never really got into the spiritual side of it,? Carter said of his early Tabor experience. ?I would maybe go to church every now and then, but just stayed to myself, my select friends and stuff, until I got into some trouble.?

Wake-up call

Carter returned to Tabor for his sophomore campaign in 2014-15, looking to pick up where he left off. But things took an unexpected turn before the start of the season.

In late October, an altercation at a party led to Carter?s arrest and a charge of battery. Consequently, Carter was kicked out of school and suspended from the team. Ratzlaff said false allegations ultimately led to Carter?s arrest.

With Carter unable to set foot on campus, Ratzlaff and his family offered Carter a place to stay.

?I didn?t even second-guess it,? Ratzlaff said of welcoming Carter into their home. ?(Wife) Amanda was amazing in that sense, too, just took him in. (Lance) literally became family. Our kids loved him.?

While working to resolve his off-the-court issues, Carter stayed busy doing odd jobs, babysitting and participating in anger management sessions, Ratzlaff said. He continued his classes online and did his best to stay in shape by shooting baskets at the high school gym.

?(Micah?s father, Glenn Ratzlaff) would open up the gym in the mornings for the high school kids, but I would be allowed to go over there and he would rebound for me,? Carter said. ?It?s hard to create the same game shape that the guys are in, but I was at least getting shots up and in the gym.?

It was during this time of turmoil that Carter experienced a spiritual awakening.

?I felt like it was kind of like God telling me that I needed him and I couldn?t do it the same old ways I?d been doing it,? Carter said. ?Even if I hadn?t gotten in trouble doing those things, he knew what I was doing and knew it was wrong. I felt like he was trying to wake me up and essentially give me a second chance.?

Carter said he always knew who God was, but had never committed to following him.

?My grandmother was a strong Christian, but I just never was a follower,? he said. ?I (would) maybe pray whenever things were going bad or whenever I felt like I needed something, but I was living for myself and for my own pleasure. I knew it wasn?t right, but it was what felt good at the time.

?Whenever I did commit (to Christ), that?s when things started going up as far as the truth started coming out about what happened, and I just felt at ease about the whole situation, that it was all going to work out. It definitely just gave me a sense of peace.?

Reinstatement

Carter hired a lawyer, and a court date was set for after Christmas.

?Everything got drawn out, so it was just a waiting game,? Ratzlaff said. ?If it wasn?t for Christmas, I think his lawyer would?ve taken care of it in a couple weeks because there was so many lies.?

In the end, the felony charges were dropped to a misdemeanor, Ratzlaff said. Carter was placed on probation and given community service work to complete.

Carter then made an appeal for reinstatement at Tabor, speaking of his acceptance of Christ as his personal savior and his regular church attendance since, the anger management sessions he had attended, and his pending graduation the following year.

Lance Carter makes his move against Kansas Wesleyan earlier this season. ?Obviously, I love the game,? Carter says. ?I love winning, which can get me into trouble sometimes, but I?m a competitor. I was the youngest of my siblings, so I felt like I always had to fight and scratch for any win I would get.?
Lance Carter makes his move against Kansas Wesleyan earlier this season. ?Obviously, I love the game,? Carter says. ?I love winning, which can get me into trouble sometimes, but I?m a competitor. I was the youngest of my siblings, so I felt like I always had to fight and scratch for any win I would get.?

?I didn?t want to have my hopes too high that I would be reinstated, not only to school, but to the team, because I knew that it could?ve been a possibility where they said, ?OK you can come back to school, but you can?t play,?? Carter said. ?I was kind of preparing for the worst in that aspect.?

Carter was reinstated at Tabor, but Ratzlaff said he allowed the team to decide whether to give Carter another chance to play. They responded favorably.

Carter played in his first game on Jan. 17, 2015, after missing nearly three months of practice.

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LanceCarter_VF325

?I remember my first game was at Sterling,? he said. ?We ended up losing in overtime, which wasn?t good, but it was just great to be back out there with the guys and just be a part of it again. I felt so distant when I couldn?t go to practice and couldn?t even be on the bench.?

Carter played in 14 games last season, recording an average of 12.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game.

Tabor won the regular-season KCAC title for the first time since 2004-05 and advanced to the national championship tournament for the second consecutive year. Tabor?s season ended with a first-round loss and an overall record of 19-13.

A new season

Prior to the start of his third season, Carter traveled to Thailand last summer as part of an MB Mission ACTION basketball team, where he played basketball and helped run basketball camps in an effort to share the gospel.

It was his first mission trip and first time to travel outside the United States.

Carter recalled a story about how he gave his shoes to a kid after a game and presented the gospel.

?He?s still on Facebook and messaging me every now and then,? Carter said. ?You just hope that you maybe planted a seed, and that eventually one day?you never know who?s going to water it?but maybe he?ll message me and say, ?I?m a Christian.??

Carter came back from Thailand, as did fellow teammate John Jedneak, ready to make a positive impact this season in encouraging teammates to place team above self.

Ratzlaff said he noticed a change in Carter after he returned from Thailand.

?Through that, I have a brand new player,? he said. ?A grown man. A guy that I used to argue with on a daily basis?and I wouldn?t trade it even if I still had to argue with him, I?d do it?but I haven?t had a single argument with him this season, not once, and we used to argue every day.

?We actually have a full-blown leader. You couldn?t ask for a better leader. Doesn?t care if he scores, doesn?t care if he?s captain, doesn?t care about any of that stuff. He just wants to win.?

And win the team has.

Tabor started the season with an 8-0 record. The team?s bond is the best it?s been since Carter came to Tabor, he said. This year, after playing two years at forward, Carter has moved to point guard.

Carter now uses his story as an example for other members of the team.

?I think a lot of the guys, especially the returners, knew the person I was and have seen the change in me and now I?m committed to that,? he said. ?So not only do they respect that, but I think it pushes them to maybe cut some things out of their life or do some things different than what they?ve done in the past.

?I just try to encourage everyone to do well. Obviously, not judge anyone because I?ve been there and probably done anything and everything that they have even thought about doing.?

He?s not afraid to share his experience of hitting rock bottom.

?I tell them a lot of times, ?I?ve been there, as far as the lowest of the low. I would never want any of you all to have to get that low to give your life to Christ or to change,?? he said. ?I think that kind of hits home for some of the guys.?

Carter is studying business management and anticipates graduation in May. He said he plans to return to Tabor next year to work on his master?s degree while completing his last year of eligibility.

Looking back, Carter is thankful for a number of people for helping him get to this point, including his coach, Micah Ratzlaff and family, Ron and Cora Regier, Tabor College, and the Hillsboro community.

?I?ve never really been in a community like this,? Carter said. ?Our community back home was pretty tight-knit, but it?s just a whole different aspect as far as I feel like I have family here.?