Hotard: Charles Carmouche has had wild, strange ride

LSU guard Charles Carmouche may very well be the answer to an obscure trivia question geared toward college-basketball junkies.

The question: “Name the player who has suited up for three separate Division I basketball programs during his career without having to sit out a year.”

The fact that Carmouche has bounced from the University of New Orleans to Memphis to LSU — and become immediately eligible at each stop — shows just how many twists and turns have greeted him since he left McMain High School.

Carmouche started for UNO his first two years of college, but was allowed to transfer, along with all other UNO athletes, without penalty because the Privateers were transitioning to a lower division. He chose Memphis, where he started 28 games as a junior.

After sitting out most of his second season at Memphis with severe tendinitis in both knees, he received a medical redshirt that gave him a second shot at a senior year.

He was allowed to enroll at LSU and play right away because he had already completed his degree requirements. The NCAA allows student-athletes with degrees to continue their career at another institution, so long as they have eligibility remaining.

“To be back here at LSU to finish up my college career, I’m going to go out there, play hard and leave it all on the floor,” Carmouche said. “I want to finish with no regrets.”

Carmouche is one of only three seniors on an LSU team littered with underclassmen. The experiences he has gained during his roundabout journey, both on the court and off it, provide him the kind of leadership qualities the young Tigers desperately need.

After scoring a team-high 19 points in LSU’s exhibition victory against Arkansas-Monticello, Carmouche again led the Tigers with 16 points in his official debut against UC Santa Barbara.

He’s been one of the team’s top all-around weapons, averaging 9.5 points, three rebounds and two steals through two regular-season games.

Although he’s new to the program, Carmouche said part of him feels like he’s been here all along.

“I thought about playing for LSU coming out of high school and again leaving the University New Orleans,” Carmouche said, “but both times I don’t think it was the right fit for either party.”

Because the up-tempo style new coach Johnny Jones runs is similar to what Carmouche knew at his previous two stops, the 6-foot-4 transfer said he needed little time to get comfortable.

But it’s not as if Carmouche was ever one to struggle with fitting in.

He played at St. Augustine in New Orleans as a freshman before being displaced by Hurricane Katrina and playing his sophomore year at Westside High in Houston. He then returned home to play his final two prep seasons at McMain.

That’s three high schools in four years.

His college career has taken on a similar life, and now Carmouche has a chance to finish out 80 miles from where the journey began.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to come back home and finish up my last year here,” he said. “Have a chance for my family to see me play.”