Christian Academy of Madison senior Luke Carter will play basketball at Lincoln Christian next year. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
Christian Academy of Madison senior Luke Carter will play basketball at Lincoln Christian next year. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
Playing at a small, non-IHSAA school like Christian Academy of Madison means that it can be difficult to get noticed, no matter how good you might be.

But despite those disadvantages, Luke Carter’s talent was able to shine through to become the first athlete in the young history of Christian Academy to earn a scholarship deal when he signed with Lincoln Christian University on Thursday.

It was a big moment that was celebrated by friends and family at an outdoor ceremony at the school that provided for plenty of social distancing.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Luke Carter said. “It’s everything I’ve been working toward.”

Carter is the most decorated player in CAM history and his leadership was a big reason why the Defenders put together a spectacular 27-9 record, school records for both wins and winning percentage.

Carter averaged 15.9 points-per-game this past season — third-best in the area — and was named Southern Roads Conference Player of the Year. He was also a Madison Courier All-Area Second Team Selection and was named to three different all-tournament teams. He finished his career with over 1,500 points.

Despite those accolades, there was always a question about whether Carter would get enough exposure for college coaches to take a notice. CAM is not an IHSAA member, although it did play a handful of IHSAA schools throughout the year, including a contest at Shawe in December where the Defenders led most of the way before falling late in the game.

Adrian Carter, CAM’s coach and Luke’s father, admitted that there was a worry about whether coach’s would get enough of a chance to see the Defenders play. But in the end, everything worked out.

“I’ve not coached for very long so I wasn’t sure if he was good enough to play or even how the whole process worked,” Adrian Carter said. “I had a lot of people help me out and I got a lot of good advice from people. And he put a lot of work in.”

Luke Carter’s biggest asset was himself. An athletic 6-foot-1 combo guard, Carter is able to both hit the outside shot and to drive it to the basket and three times this season he scored at least 25 points in a game.

“I think my biggest weakness that I need to work on is getting stronger to get ready for the physicality of college ball,” Luke Carter said. “And I think my biggest strength is my quickness.”

The school that Carter will be joining is an NAIA Division 2 program located in Lincoln, Illinois that competes in the Association of Independent Institutions Conference, a 20-member league that has schools all over the country, from New Mexico to Massachusetts as well as the Virgin Islands.

The Red Lions went 10-22 a year ago with most games being played in Indiana and Illinois. Carter plans on majoring in sports management.

“Like he said, he’s got to get stronger. It’s a big jump to the next level,” Adrian Carter said. “But he has the body structure to do that I think and he has the quickness that is so important in basketball. If you don’t have the quickness, it’s just hard. And I think his shot has improved even since the season is over. I think he’ll transition well. It’s a big jump up, but I think he’ll do well.”

Luke Carter is just the first of what could be several Defenders playing at the next level in coming years. Fellow senior Trent Haggard has already committed to Hanover College as a preferred walk-on while Luke’s younger brother Clay, a sophomore, will be playing for the Southern Indiana Shock AAU team this summer. There are several other players that have show promise as well.

“I’ve thought about (being the first CAM player to get a scholarship) but not much. There is going to plenty of more that will come after me,” Luke Carter said. “Trent did a great job too with our team as well. This school is just amazing.”