Harvey-Carr is go-to player at LEAP

LEAP Academy sophomore Brazil Harvey-Carr (#23) dribbles downcourt against Maddie Gugel (#1) and Cierra Corbin (#20) on the Paulsboro defense February 22, 2017. Harvey-Carr leads SJ with 24.8 point average and already has reached 1,000 career points. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

Ted Evans' first memories of Brazil Harvey-Carr go all the way back to when the girl was 5 years old.

Harvey-Carr would be on a basketball court with her grandmother, waiting for her big sister, Brandi, after school at LEAP Academy.

"I would watch her fire up three-pointers as a 5-year old," Evans said, "Even then you could see the dedication of her and her family. You could see something was there. We knew what was coming."

Since that time, Evans has watched Harvey-Carr separate herself from players her own age on a basketball court.

And as she's gotten older, age is no longer the measuring stick for her talents.

"I'm 64 years old. I've been coaching my whole life. I don't know if I've ever seen any female player with this talent level," he said. "I haven't seen anyone develop this fast and just dominate a game like this."

On Thursday, Harvey-Carr, a 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard for LEAP Academy scored the 1,000th point of her career, a milestone the humble star described as "exciting."

She's averaging 25 points per game and is on track to be the 28th member of the South Jersey girls' basketball 2,000- point club.

In less than two years, she has helped change the perception of a program representing a small charter school in Camden.

LEAP (14-10) enters the South Jersey Group 1 tournament as the 13th seed and will meet fourth-seeded Clayton in the first round. LEAP has never won a playoff game in girls' basketball.

But the expectations suddenly feel different.

"We know [Clayton] really well," said Harvey-Carr, whose team narrowly lost to Clayton in last year's tournament and this year's regular season. "We just have to play together as a team . . .

"Winning a playoff game would mean everything to us."

Harvey-Carr's combination of size and speed, her court vision, passing ability, and shooting touch - her overall athletic package - make for perhaps the most ready-made Division 1 skill set in all of South Jersey.

Yet she's been one of the area's best-kept secrets.

With only roughly 500 high school-age students, LEAP - a nursery through high school charter school - is small even by Group 1 standards.

And sports has never been its primary focus. Most players who go out for his team, Evans said, have never played the sport before.

LEAP's school year is longer, stretching late into June, and so are its school days, which last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

When asked about how she feels about the schedule, Harvey-Carr laughed.

"You get used to it," she said.

But really, she went on to say, she's proud to represent her school and her city.

She would have starred on any other team in South Jersey. But she's proud to wear the same uniform that her sister, Brandi, wore before moving on to DePaul on a full scholarship.

"I know that our school is not known for being good at sports, But I want to help change that," said Harvey-Carr, who plays AAU ball in New York, adding to her hidden-gem factor. "I want to help develop my teammates into better players and help us work better as a team."

Basketball runs in Harvey-Carr's family.

Her father, Ronald Carr, was a standout at Camden High and has had a lifelong passion for basketball. He taught Harvey-Carr the fundamentals of the sport from an early age.

"I would go to his [adult league] games and support him and watch, so I was always around basketball," Harvey-Carr said.

And, her sister, Brandi, has been her mentor. But she laughs about the battles the two continue to wage on the court. When they would play one-on-one, Brandi, who is 6-4 and seven years older than Brazil, had no problems with blocking her little sister's shot when she had the chance.

"That's where I learned to dribble around people," Brazil said with a laugh.

Even today, that edge still exists.

Evans recalled the last time Brandi came back to visit a LEAP practice during winter break.

"When practice was over [Brandi and Brazil] got around to having a three-point contest," Evans said. "I thought I was going to have to pull them off the court the way they were going at it. They're just competitive."

That attitude has fueled the success of both naturally gifted sisters. Brazil knew her sister was a 1,000-point scorer in high school. So she wanted to be one, too.

"I didn't think I'd hit my 1,000th point as a sophomore. But my sister hit hers in her junior year, so I wanted to beat her," she said with a laugh.

These early accomplishment have Brazil even more excited for the future. She's made history in less than two years. She's redefining what it means to play girls' basketball for LEAP.

It should only get better from here.

cmelchiorre@phillynews.com

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