Vernon Carey Jr. explains how the Duke Blue Devils’ system led to his commitment
As his fellow McDonald’s all-Americans ran up and down the court in front of a slew of NBA scouts during practice on Monday afternoon, Vernon Carey Jr. was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch.
The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Duke commit has been out since March 1 with a sprained ankle, and plans to sit out the McDonald’s game on Wednesday night (7 p.m., ESPN2). He’s instead focused on rehabbing for the GEICO High School Nationals, where he hopes to lead University School (Fla.) to a championship April 4-6 in New York.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but I’m just looking at it long-term,” Carey said. “I tried to give it a go [Sunday] and I just couldn’t. They just told me to sit down and rehab it. And hopefully I can get ready for GEICO next week. That’s the goal, to go out there and win that.”
Carey was one of two Duke commits selected for the McDonald’s Game, along with Concord, N.C., wing Wendell Moore. Both are on the East Team.
The Duke commits watched Duke’s thrilling 77-76 win over UCF in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. The game came down to the final seconds, and the Blue Devils advanced to the Sweet 16 on Friday only after UCF had two good looks at a game-winning bucket.
“It’s motivating, to be honest,” Carey said. “Just seeing what they’re doing right now on the court, what me and Wendell and Boogie [Ellis] could bring to the table.”
With Zion Williamson and fellow freshman RJ Barrett projected as the top two picks in the NBA Draft, Carey said he’s not awed by the pressure of following them and wants Duke fans to know he’s a completely different player from the 6-7, 285-pound Williamson.
“We have similar stuff in our games, but I feel like overall we’re different players,” Carey said. “I feel like I bring a high versatility.”
Like everyone else, Carey is awed by Williamson’s dunks, blocks and agility.
“Just the stuff that he does on the court, it’s indescribable,” he said. “Just his explosiveness, the way he explodes from different positions.”
While last year’s Duke recruiting class made history by featuring the top three prospects in the Class of 2018 in Williamson, Barrett and Cam Reddish, this current three-man class is ranked No. 9 by 247Sports.com.
Still, the Blue Devils remain involved for several elite uncommitted prospects, including a couple in the McDonald’s Game.
Matthew Hurt, a 6-9 forward from Rochester, Minn., is considering Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Memphis and Minnesota. Hurt plans to announce April 19, the day before his 19th birthday. He said Duke has compared him to past wings Jayson Tatum and Brandon Ingram, both now in the NBA.
“I could be a big impact both on the offensive and defensive end,” Hurt said of how he could fit in at Duke.
Carey, meantime, says he’s recruiting Hurt and Trendon Watford, a 6-8 forward from Mountain Brook, Ala., to Duke. Carey is Watford’s roommate here and they watched Sunday’s Duke game together.
“We’re in their ear,” Carey said of Hurt and Watford.
Watford, who has won three straight state titles in Alabama, has yet to receive a scholarship offer from Duke, but has interest from them.
“They’re pretty much saying they want me and they want me to get up there for a visit,” said Watford, the younger brother of former Indiana star Christian Watford. “Just to be able to be coached by one of the greatest coaches ever [Mike Krzyzewski] would be a blessing. I played with Vernon, I played with Wendell, I played with Boogie Ellis a little bit, so I feel like we would play pretty good together.”
He’s also considering Indiana, LSU, Memphis and home-state Alabama and plans to announce April 20 at the Jordan Brand Classic Game in Las Vegas. Hurt said LSU and Alabama are still in the mix despite the coaching uncertainties at both SEC schools.
As for North Carolina, 6-10 IMG Academy (Fla.) big man Armando Bacot is the lone Tar Heel pledge in the game. He is on the West team along with uncommitted Oak Hill Academy (Va.) point guard Cole Anthony and uncommitted Montverde Academy (Fla.) wing Precious Achiuwa.
The 6-3 Anthony is the son of former NBA point guard Greg Anthony. He is considering North Carolina, Oregon, Wake Forest, Georgetown and Notre Dame, and plans to announce in early April. He said Bacot has been recruiting both him and the 6-9 Achiuwa, who recently took an official visit to North Carolina and then posted a picture of himself in a UNC uniform on Twitter.
“Obviously, I want to see how Oregon and North Carolina do in the [NCAA] Tournament,” Anthony said. “Just see how they react in different situations, see how far they can go. I’m still a fan of college basketball at this point, I want to keep watching.”