Hartford men's basketball will never forget the 2020-2021 season. The Hawks, led by graduate student Traci Carter, made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.
"That's every kid's dream to go to the NCAA Tournament," said Carter.
"He will go down as one of the best players ever to play here," said Hartford men's basketball head coach John Gallagher.
Since last year’s title game was canceled due to the pandemic, the Hawks fought through their fair share of adversity to win the America East Championship.
"It just shows how bad the team wanted it and how much of a family we are," said Carter.
Traci needed his Hawks family this year more than ever. Carter's younger brother Semaj died last year in a shooting in Philadelphia.
"My little brother passed in July," said Carter. "He was my everything. He was more like a son to me. I looked after him and all he ever wanted was for me to do well and live out my dream,"
Carter honored his brother by doing just that and being a part of history for the Hartford men's basketball program.
"For me, my time in Hartford has just been one of so much growth," said Carter. "In order to grow, you need to be in the right environment."
Carter has had an up and down college career with stops at three schools. He even thought about giving up the game he loves.
"I was done with basketball when I first came to Hartford," Carter said. "One of the things I'll never forget Coach Gal said is that 'you need to dream again.'"
Both Gallagher and Carter are from Philadelphia and they saw what was possible if they worked together.
"As we got closer and closer, the visions started to become true and it gave me so much hope," said Carter. "Without hope, we have nothing."
Carter wants to pass that hope on to the next generation.
"Kids in the inner city, they don't have hope," said Carter. "They don't have hope for what their life can be and should be."
With a little help from Coach Gallagher, Carter started Anchors Camp to help young kids create their own path to success. It's an extension of the ‘neighborhood’ that has defined the recent culture of the Hartford men’s basketball program.
"We separate ourselves by how we treat each other and Traci is the leader in that," said Gallagher.
Carter's goal is to make an even bigger impact off the court than he has made on it.
"Everything had to happen in order for it to go like this," said Carter.
Carter still has one more year of eligibility remaining and could return to play for the Hawks next season but he has not yet made a final decision.