Two years ago, when Josh Carlton came to a Phenom Hoop Report camp in Greensboro, regional basketball recruiting analyst Rick Lewis recalls thinking Carlton could become special player.
“He was one of these kids that had a good frame but needed to add strength,” Lewis said. “I remember, though, he always played hard, had great length with a good motor. He had all the intangibles.”
This week, Carlton is playing with nationally ranked DeMatha (Md.) Catholic in the Hoodies House tournament. He’s a 6-foot-9, 225-pound senior forward playing for one of high school basketball’s most storied programs. He had 26 points, making 11-of-12 field goal attempts, plus 10 rebounds in a 77-72 loss to Providence Day in the semifinals Thursday. Carlton and DeMatha will play St. Mary’s (MD) in Friday’s third place game at 6 p.m.
In 2014, Carlton attended South Central High in Winterville, a suburb of Greenville, N.C. He’d just finished a sophomore season when he averaged nine points and six rebounds. That summer, his mother was hired at the University of Maryland. His parents are orginally from the Washington, D.C. area and Carlton’s older brother played college basketball at Howard.
“His mom and dad showed up at school one weekday morning during our summer camp,” DeMatha coach Mike Jones said. “They said they had heard about DeMatha and wanted to talk about their son coming there.”
When Carlton enrolled at DeMatha before his junior season, he had college scholarship offers from only Old Dominion and Penn State. But Carlton’s game blossomed playing for a national power under Jones, a former assistant at the school before succeeding legendary head coach Morgan Wootten, who retired in 2002 after 45 years.
Carlton had scholarship offers from Clemson, Kansas State and Texas A&M before signing with Connecticut in November. This season, he’s helped DeMatha to a No. 11 ranking in USA Today’s national poll.
“Last year,” Jones said of Carlton, “he went through a lot of adjustments, moving from a small N.C. town playing public school ball and then coming to the D.C. area playing private school and playing a national schedule. But whomever coached him growing up, whether it was his dad or his school ball or AAU coaches, he had a strong foundation. And after going through that adjustment period, he’s really flourished.”
As a junior, Carlton averaged nine points and eight rebounds. He’s averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds this season.
“Going from a small school in a rural area to a big-time school in a more urban area was a big change,” Carlton said. “I had to get adjusted. But it worked out for the best. But I got there, they gave me a nickname, Big Homie. It’s been fun here at DeMatha. It prepares you for the next level.
“A lot of people go to smaller schools and dominate the ball so they can be the guy. At DeMatha, you’re playing with other Division I talents and any night can be your night, but you have to share the ball.”
Lewis, the recruiting analyst, said he’s not surprised by Carlton’s success.
“When we saw him two years ago,” Lewis said, “we had him a mid-major or mid-major plus (college prospect), but we talked about him having that frame and that motor, and when you have those things I’m not surprised he’s turned into what he’s turned into.”