Aaron and Trey Carver have heard stories of their father’s past, one filled with college and professional basketball memories from Italy, France, South America, Switzerland and more.
The proud pop then transitions into countless hours of instruction on every detail of their games, viewing player films and pointing out where the Northeastern tandem can best utilize their talents.
Beyond those instructions, there’s a stronger message A.C. Carver wants his sons to absorb, one that goes past today’s hardwood and to his youth on the dirt courts near Newland’s Crooked Run Road.
“I knew that at the time economically, my folks couldn’t afford to send me to college,” said A.C. Carver, who played professionally overseas for seven years after a stellar career at Old Dominion. “Coming from Newland right off of Highway 158, that was always my goal to get an academic or basketball scholarship, and not put the financial burden on them to put me in college.
“I couldn’t even go outside until the homework was done first. I’d be on the bus 30-40 minutes from Elizabeth City to Newland, and a lot of kids would already be in my backyard shooting, but I could not step out there until the homework was done and checked.”
His youngest sons have adapted to the firm, and usually rigid academic focus, while also taking to their dad’s strong basketball pedigree.
Junior Aaron, who tops the Northeastern Coastal Conference-leading Eagles in points (14.2), rebounds (13.2) and blocks (5.8) per game, also maintains a 4.4 GPA.
Freshman Trey, who starts alongside big brother, is third in points per game with 10.5, and is also a regular on the A Honor Roll list.
Both gained more respect from their old man on Monday. Not from being leaders on the court, but from seeing another report card filled with high marks.
“He tells me all the time he’s more proud of academics than what we can do with sports,” Trey Carver said. “Academics is the one thing to fall back on when sports is done, because you can’t play them forever.”
The Carver brothers have a blend of their father’s standout basketball tools, including height, shooting ability, and aggressiveness in the post.
Aaron, at 6-6 and 210 pounds, is leaner and more mild-mannered, with a shooting touch that draws similarities to A.C., who went from power forward to shooter while playing at ODU from 1987-90.
In the senior year of his all-Sun Belt Conference season, the elder Carver led the league in shooting and connected on at least one 3-pointer in 32 straight games.
“Of course, people will make comparisons, but that doesn’t change how we play together on the court and how we play as a team,” Aaron Carver said. “But I do try to base my game off things similar to my dad’s.”
Trey, at 6-3 and 222, finds his strengths with the type of muscular body most teammates don’t possess until their junior and senior seasons.
The freshman, who finished last spring as River Road Middle School’s all-time leading scorer, is happy to put his back to the basket and push around interior players.
“It’s truly a combination, because Trey is more physical than I was, and I feel like Aaron is as skilled,” said A.C. Carver, who now works as a supervisor at UPS in Edenton. “Both of them have the ability to be a swing-type player like myself.”
Both sons, as well as A.C. Carver, realize the importance of creating their own futures, which is why academics are such an emphasis. The oldest son, A.C. Carver, Jr., studies at East Carolina to become a psychologist and did little with basketball.
Aaron’s mother, Angela Carver, has her master’s degree in computer science and works at Elizabeth City State. Trey’s mother and A.C.’s wife, Tia, teaches at River Road. Tia Carver also played women’s basketball at ECSU.
So it only makes sense that when the sons aren’t as productive in the classroom or on the court, the night could only get longer around their parents.
Trey recalls a game earlier this month at First Flight when he and Aaron lacked in intensity, despite Northeastern having little trouble against the Nighthawks in a 63-34 victory, and both were criticized.
“I think my wife, Tia, told them a little too much,” A.C. Carver said. “She told them so much that I had to come in there and calm it down.
“We have to really sit down at dinner and go, ‘OK, we’re not talking about basketball.’ That’s just how it is here.”
Then the talk shifts to grades, where even a B-minus could mean punishment.
“I remember Aaron came to me and said, ‘I got a 93, my mom’s going to be upset at me. I got to pull this grade up,’ ” NHS coach Ronald Nixon said. “When you define the term student-athlete, you define Aaron and Trey. They bring energy to this program, and the teachers love them.
“They bring leadership to the classroom, and they have the ability to compete at the next level. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
A.C. Carver, who retired from professional basketball in 1997, maintains strong ties to the ODU program, where both Aaron and Trey have attended elite summer camps. Both have the school among their favorites to attend and play basketball, but their father is fine with whatever college they decide when the time comes.
That sort of independence is what Trey strives for every day. He shrugged off wearing his father’s No. 21 and instead sports No. 22, the age his mother was when she gave birth to him. He then points out to friends who stop by the house that he hasn’t learned everything from his dad, and often challenges A.C. to pickup games.
He’s circled a date just after the Eagles season as the time he will get his first win against his old man.
Combined, Aaron and Trey almost did it about three years ago. That was in a 3-on-3 game at a family reunion, where the emerging youth taught their father some moves in a competitive, yet dicey, contest.
“It was getting pretty physical, because they were getting mad that we were winning,” Trey Carver said. “I just remember after the game, we weren’t talking. And going back to the family reunion dinner, everyone was still heated from the game.”
Still imposing at 6-7 and 230 pounds, A.C. Carver said he had to turn up the intensity in the name of tough love.
“We had to go a little old school and get physical with them, which they call cheating,” A.C. Carver said. “We call it just not calling a foul. I told my wife when we got back to the cabin that these guys are getting big and strong. I’m really going to have to play to keep up with these guys.
“I’m excited about Trey’s challenge because it’s time for them to beat me. I’m going to play hard and always played hard against them and pushed them around a little to teach them things they can use as an advantage for themselves.”
Little lessons that could serve the younger Carvers just as well off the court. A.C. Carver still enjoys the little things he would have greatly treasured growing up in Newland.
“I’ve got a paved driveway,” A.C. Carver said. “I never had that, since I used to dribble down into the dirt.”