Every morning before school, Carter Kling grabs some oatmeal that his mom makes and drives five minutes from his house to Pinecrest Academy.
It’s nearly the same drive he made his first two years of high school when he was a student at South Forsyth.
After school, Kling heads straight to the gym for either basketball practice team or to get ready for a game.
Just the same as he always has.
Kling is averaging around 15 points a game for the Paladins this season and has twice scored more than 20 points.
Yet, despite being a key member of the Paladins’ offense this season, Kling was not allowed to play in any varsity games in his junior season after transferring from South at the beginning of the year.
Kling said the transfer had more to do with some struggling grades, but that he was bound to get more playing time on the court by transferring to Pinecrest.
South’s basketball team will graduate 10 seniors at the end of the season. Kling, a senior himself, said at best he would have been a role player this season on the team.
“At first, I didn’t really want to come,” Kling said. “But when I started playing on the team with everybody during varsity summer league, the experience started helping me.”
Unlike a typical high school movie where the main character goes through the awkward transferring phase at a new school, Kling said he had a lot of friends from his neighborhood that were already students at Pinecrest and felt relatively comfortable.
Throughout his junior season, Kling was allowed to practice with the varsity team but could not dress out for any of their games. Kling said he was unsure when he first transferred whether he would be forced to sit, but figured he would not play much if he had stayed at South.
No matter what, he figured he would at least get to play junior varsity at Pinecrest.
“Obviously, I wanted to play varsity,” Kling said. “But I knew that if I practiced with them, I could get better and get ready for next year. I go and put shots up every day. It doesn’t matter if we just played a game or not.”
While playing with junior varsity, Kling said that he began to gain more confidence on the court when his coach gave him the green light to shoot whenever.
That confidence is something that Paladins head coach Jay Lynch wanted to continue into this season.
“The thing that is awesome about Carter is that he never lets up,” Lynch said. “He competes for everything. He wants to win everything. Every line drill he wants to be first. That’s when I knew we had a special kid here. He competes at a very high level all the time.”
Kling agreed with Lynch that his confidence has increased on and off the court since his transfer. His grades have gotten better and he believes he plays a more rounded game of basketball, rather than just being a shooter.
“I watched the varsity team play together and they were a really good team ... really well coached,” Kling said. “I learned how to play structure-wise. Watching how people play defense and stop guys who might be bigger and faster than them. Watching what it takes to execute late in a game.”
During fall workouts, Kling was the only player currently in the rotation for the Paladins that was not on the football team.
This being Lynch’s first year back as Pinecrest’s head coach, his bond with Kling grew throughout workouts. Lynch said he knew after the first week that he would start for the varsity team this season.
Lynch must think highly of Kling, comparing him to a hybrid of Spurs legend Manu Ginobili and NBA Hall of Famer Ray Allen.
He added that he has an NBA-esque love for the game and deeply cares about his performance.
“Carter really cares about winning and about the game,” Lynch said. “After a tough loss, Carter had missed a shot. He hopped on the Groupme saying ‘My bad, guys. I blew the game.’ Everyone rallied around and told him that we lose as a team. He has a big heart and cares about this.”
Though Pinecrest has had to cancel or reschedule several games this season because of complications with COVID-19, the Paladins sit in third place in Region 6-1A Private and fell narrowly, 69-64, to region leader King’s Ridge last week.
Kling is only one of two seniors on the roster and has been a great leader throughout the season.
“To me, being a Paladin is having the confidence to know that you have a major role on the team,” Kling said. “It does not matter whether you’re scoring or shouting on the bench. You’re on the team. You matter.”
Kling and the Paladins will take the court at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a home game against Fellowship Christian.