When he was a senior at Dorsey High in Los Angeles, Nigel Carter's idea of a good time was spending a frostbitten winter in Maine.
"Nigel's mom definitely wanted him here," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "It was nice to have him the other day."
Carter had the biggest game of his quiet three-year Cal career last Sunday, scoring 16 points off the bench, including 4 for 4 from the 3-point line, in the Bears' 80-78 loss to Southern Miss.
It would figure he will get more opportunity today when the Bears (5-4) take on Cal Poly (3-6) at Haas Pavilion in a 2 p.m. tipoff.
But as a junior walk-on, Carter takes nothing for granted.
"I just take it a day at a time," he said. "I feel like one game doesn't make anybody. I'm past that now."
After Dorsey, where he averaged 22 points as a senior and played alongside the likes of Jordan Hamilton (University of Texas), Omari Johnson (Oregon State) and Charles Garcia (Seattle), Carter hoped to attend Maine Central Institute, a postgraduate prep school he believed could elevate his status with recruiters.
But when Cal's admission's office OK'd Carter, the decision was made. "My mom kind of forced me," he said.
Unlike most walk-on players, Carter did little in advance to pave the way to a spot on the roster. He played some pickup ball with the team but did not speak with Montgomery until showing up for a walk-on tryout in the fall of 2008.
"Just to walk on to school in the fall and hope you're going to be on the team is a little bit of a gamble," Montgomery said. "It's paid off for Nigel."
A 6-foot-3 guard, Carter played sparingly his first two seasons.
This season, after the graduation of four starters, there has been more opportunity. He played 21 minutes against Southern Miss and displayed sure-handed calm on the floor.
"To be honest, I'm always confident in myself," said Carter, who has made 8 of 11 shots from 3-point range this season. "Even if I don't play, I still know what I can do. I can't control if I don't get in."
Montgomery stopped short of calling Carter's performance against Southern Miss a surprise.
"He's improved since he's been here, without question," Montgomery said. "I don't know that you'd expect him to go out and go 4 for 4 from 3. If we felt like he could do that all the time, I would guess we would be going to him more."