Andraya Carter at the 2024 Women's Final Four. Cleveland, OH – April 7, 2024 – Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse: Andraya Carter during the 2024 NCAA Women’s Final Four. (Photo by Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

A recent discussion with ESPN has been about how the network has cut its numbers of middle-level (in terms of pay and exposure) personalities but invested heavily to keep the faces it believes in and given them more and more prominence on different programming.

The latest example of that pattern is with Andraya Carter.

Carter is on a remarkable rise at the network. She is quickly becoming one of their most prominent faces on NBA, WNBA, and college (men’s and women’s) basketball coverage. First Take host Molly Qerim showed that off with a goodbye salute to Carter on Tuesday.

It is indeed a breakout season for Carter. She joined the men’s college basketball version of College GameDay this year, becoming the first full-time female panelist in that show’s history. She also drew strong praise for her work on women’s college basketball studio coverage with Elle Duncan and Chiney Ogwumike. She covered the WNBA Draft Monday, garnering plaudits for her handling of a fourth-wall break when it became clear her words on Caitlin Clark were being broadcast to Clark.

Last year, Carter covered the NBA and WNBA seasons, the NBA Draft, and the WNBA Finals (as a combination sideline reporter/in-game analyst at that latter event). She’s currently the only ESPN analyst to regularly cover men’s and women’s pro and college basketball.

The 30-year-old Carter began her broadcasting career in 2016 after injuries led to her retiring from the Tennessee Volunteers women’s basketball team following her redshirt junior season. She started by calling some Tennessee games for ESPN3, then expanded to more women’s basketball games, then the G-League.

2021 saw Carter become a lead women’s college basketball studio analyst for SEC Network and gain some main ESPN exposure as well. The next year, she added sideline reporting work for SEC Network college football coverage and a studio analyst role on the women’s college basketball version of College GameDay. And her role has kept growing since then.

Something that stands out with Carter is her versatility. She’s worked as a sideline reporter, a studio panelist, and a game analyst, and has even combined some of those roles at times, as she did on last year’s WNBA Finals. She’s also now regularly guesting on shows like First Take and SportsCenter.

In each of those roles, Carter understands how to fit in. Her First Take and Get Up conversations are different from her studio show ones and sideline reporting. Versatility is very much appreciated at today’s ESPN, and Carter is similar to another recently-extended figure there, Ryan Clark.

This isn’t to say that Carter is on the level of a Stephen A. Smith or a Pat McAfee in terms of importance to the ESPN brand. She’s an important contributor for ESPN across a host of shows and content, but they’re not basing a show solely around her to date (and they’re certainly not paying her at the level of those figures).

But Carter does fit in very well to that next level of prominent and recently retained versatile ESPN contributors, including Clark, Mina Kimes, Marcus Spears, and more. And she’s fast becoming one of their most notable figures in women’s basketball (college and pro). As she discussed with Richard Deitsch last month, that’s an area of growing emphasis for ESPN.

That versatility may also provide more options for Carter to continue to rise. She now has notable ESPN work under her belt in both college and pro men’s and women’s basketball, as well as in college football. She’s shown ability in every role from reporter to game analyst to studio analyst to talk-show pundit. So there could be even more ahead for her soon.

This is also a good era to become a prominent face at ESPN. The network currently seems quite big on promoting individual personalities rather than shows above all, and in promoting new and rising personalities rather than just hanging on to veterans at all costs. Both of those trends are something particularly seen in Burke Magnus’ tenure overseeing content (since March 2023), and the recent exit of Norby Williamson (who often emphasized shows over personalities) is another element of note.

Something seen with some of those other faces is their expansion into roles beyond ESPN, and the network’s seeming support for that. Smith, Clark, and Kimes all have podcast projects outside the ESPN umbrella, and McAfee has done a lot outside ESPN as well, including with WWE. It will be interesting to see if Carter winds up working with someone outside ESPN as well. (However, she is extremely busy with the variety of ESPN roles she currently holds, so that isn’t necessarily something coming soon.)

Of course, just because Carter appears on the rise doesn’t mean she’s guaranteed to keep gaining prominence at ESPN. There have been many ESPN figures who got off to hot starts but then left the network, or fell out of favor there for one reason or another. But Carter certainly is doing a solid job there right now, across a variety of shows and platforms. And that’s really starting to pay off.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.