For the past few months, the understanding has been that five-star basketball recruit Wendell Carter is a virtual lock to eventually commit to the Duke Blue Devils.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Carter was quoted as saying that Kentucky is actually “higher” on his recruiting list than Duke.
After Monday morning’s session of Team USA U17 training camp, Carter told the Herald-Leader that neither of those is true.
As for the recent comment about UK being out front in his recruitment, Carter said: “That wasn’t correct,” implying that he either misspoke or misunderstood the question.
And as for the narrative that it’s just a matter of time before he commits to Duke? “No one’s leading right now,” he said.
For the next few weeks, the 6-foot-10 post player from Atlanta won’t have much time to worry about his college recruitment.
Carter was one of 18 players to make it past Sunday’s first cut for the Team USA U17 squad that will compete for the FIBA world championship in Spain later this month. More cuts will be made as the week continues, but Carter is as close to a cinch to make the team as anyone here.
I’m looking for a school that will take me in, so I can use them instead of them using me. Help me get to the next level instead of them taking me in to make their school look good.
Wendell Carter, top basketball recruit
He’s considered a top-five recruit in the class of 2017 by every major recruiting service, and he was one of the main contributors — and the leading rebounder — off of last year’s Team USA squad that won a U16 gold medal.
Still, he’s not resting on his laurels.
Carter said Monday that he came into this year’s training camp with the goal of being the “hardest-working big man” on the team, and he showed that effort Monday, setting picks away from the basket and being active on the boards.
His best attribute remains his ability to score inside.
“He’s been so steady in his progression,” said Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. “And at his size, 6-10, he’s strong, he’s tough, he’s physical. He does a good job of rebounding, but I think where he brings the biggest value is as a post scorer. A guy that can score over either shoulder, can make short-range jump shots.
“He has really good touch around the basket.”
Carter averaged 21.6 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.5 blocked shots per game for Pace Academy as a junior, earning first-team All-America honors and leading his squad to a state title.
Last year, he led his Nike team to a championship on the summer circuit, and he’s picked up where he left off there, averaging 16.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game this spring for Team CP3, which is tied for the best record in the league and will be among the favorites at next month’s Peach Jam.
Carter was still in middle school when he first popped up on the radar of college coaches and recruiting analysts as a possible top-flight prospect. Obviously, he hasn’t disappointed, earning scholarship offers from a who’s who of college programs.
On Monday, he listed UK, Duke, Harvard, Georgia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Arizona and California as the schools that he’s been hearing from the most.
UK, Duke and Harvard are the programs most-often mentioned in connection with his recruitment, and Carter is fully aware of all the folks who think he’ll eventually sign with the Blue Devils.
“That’s the only school I’ve been to twice, so I guess I can respect why they think I’m going to Duke,” he said. “But it’s not a definite at all.”
Carter said Monday that he’s still planning to visit UK for Big Blue Madness in October — and he’s expecting fellow class of 2017 stars and Team USA finalists Kevin Knox and Gary Trent Jr. to join him on that trip — before returning to Lexington for a second visit later in his recruitment.
Ask Carter what will be most important to him as he contemplates his college decision, and his response sounds like an echo of John Calipari’s “players-first” mantra.
“First, I’m looking for a school that will take me in, so I can use them instead of them using me,” he said. “Help me get to the next level instead of them taking me in to make their school look good.”
And though he’s repeatedly said that he will place a high value on academics during his recruiting process — and he’s also said that he doesn’t rank UK as highly as Duke and Harvard in that area — he did offer some hope to Wildcats fans that might have already written him off as a prospect who will end up elsewhere.
“They know how to get players to the league,” he said, “and that’s where I want to go.”