Renaissance Man Wendell Carter Jr. To Showcase Versatility At Nike Hoop Summit
“The name is Carter – Wendell Carter.”
The video Wendell Carter Jr. used to announce his decision to attend and play basketball for Duke University next season was James Bond-esque.
The video is titled “The Sharpshooter Commitment” and has more than 2,000 retweets and 25,000 YouTube views. In terms of recruiting announcement videos, it is an Oscar-worthy performance complete with production and execution that even Pierce Brosnan might find compelling.
What did you expect from the largest, most athletic person to ever grace the theater stage of Atlanta’s Pace Academy?
“Before I came to Pace, it was like basketball was the only thing I was able to do, so when I came here, I just started trying things out,” said Carter, who stands at 6-foot-9, 255-pounds.
“I did some arts and crafts, but I wasn’t good at that, so I stopped. I started doing theater. One of the acting coaches came up to me and asked if I would like to do it, and I just went to one of the rehearsals, and I fell in love from there.”
Pace’s theater program is award-winning, and the Knights’ debate team is top-notch, too. Carter said his theater coach gave him the idea of making his announcement through a video, even helping him create it. Teammates and friends starred as extras. Carter shot for something “out of the ordinary” and was successful.
There is more to Carter than what meets the lengthy glance from head-to-toe. He is intelligent, for one, and academics were a major factor in his search for a school at the next level. He chose Duke over the likes of the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, his options closest to home. The other school in the mix was Harvard University, which he called, “the best academic school in the nation.”
“I always look ahead to after basketball,” he added. “When the ball stops bouncing, I’m going to need something to fall back on. I think education is one thing that nobody can take from you, no matter how old or how fast you can run. You will always have your education to do things off the court.”
So after weighing his options, Duke proved to be exactly what he was looking for, and he signed his National Letter of Intent to the Blue Devils during the early signing period this past November.
“I just felt that Duke was the perfect mixture between athletics and academics, and it’s also not too far from home, where my parents can come visit every once and a while,” said Pace’s 2015 Lance and Shield Award recipient, an award given to a scholar athlete that exemplifies leadership, fine moral character and a high level of athletic success.
He plans on studying math at Duke, or maybe even finance or economics. He is not entirely sure yet, but he knows math is a particular skill for him. And, he is currently enrolled in honors calculus at Pace, which he takes seriously, despite not having to study for every test.
His mother, Kylia, takes it pretty seriously, too. Kylia played four years of collegiate basketball at the University of Mississippi, and in addition to her son’s play on the court, studies are also a top priority.
“She expects a lot of me. She’s not the one that is like, ‘Why didn’t you score that bucket? Or, why didn’t shoot that last shot?’ That’s not her thing. She’s more like, ‘Wendell, why didn’t you get that rebound? Put a little more effort in.’”
“She wants all A’s, no matter what. If I didn’t have straight A’s, I couldn’t play basketball.”
His work ethic in the classroom carried over to his performance on the court. One thing is for certain – Pace’s basketball program benefitted from Carter staying on the books.
Just two days before his future school won the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, Carter won a tournament of his own, in the form of Georgia’s 3A state championship. Pace upended the defending state champs from Morgan County behind Carter’s game-high 20 points and 17 rebounds to win a second-consecutive state title after winning at the 2A level in 2016.
It capped a memorable week for Carter. On March 7, he was honored as the Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year for his activity in the community, classroom and on the court.
“It means a lot. There are a lot of great players here. It just shows that hard work pays off and hard work does not go unseen.
“I believe that if I just continue to stay humble, listen to my parents and continue to trust in God, the sky is the limit. It just feels good to have that award. It’s something I can look back on and think, ‘Man, I worked for that.’”
Carter’s play is the result of years of work. Some of that happened with USA Basketball.
Of the 12 players on the USA Nike Hoop Summit roster, Carter is one-of-three with more than one gold medal. He captured gold alongside Nike Hoop Summit teammate and future Blue Devil Gary Trent Jr. at the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship before winning again with Trent and the USA at the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship.
He has 12 starts and 12 wins in a USA uniform, and was named to the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship All-Tournament Team after helping the USA to seven wins, averaging 10.1 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game.
His experiences and success are paralleled by very few at this level, but he still speaks with considerable humility.
“It’s helped me become a great teammate and star in my role. There are a lot of great players on the (USA) team, so you have to find that one thing you can do to help the team win. It’s always fun being able to play for your country and to have USA on your chest. It gives you a special feeling on the inside.”
The self-tagged hustler and dirty worker will don the USA jersey again at the 20th annual Nike Hoop Summit on April 7 in Portland, Oregon.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. There’s so much talent in this class – some not from this country, some from this country. It’ll just be fun squaring off.”
Carter noted that was a thrilling aspect of competing on the Nike EYBL Circuit this past summer, as well. He hooped for Team CP3 from North Carolina, averaging 16.8 ppg. and 10.2 rpg. en route to All-EYBL second-team honors.
“Every team has great players. There aren’t games out there when you can be lackadaisical with the ball and things like that. You have to come to play every game, and that’s what is so unique about EYBL. You get to highlight your talents against the best of the best, and I don’t think it gets any better than that.”
It is the country’s top prep circuit, and it allowed the 2017 class’ No. 3 ranked prospect a chance to find the weaker aspects of his game. His motor, he says, is an area of focus heading to Durham, North Carolina. Carter actually laughs about needing to work on his in-game endurance. He compares it to ball-handing and on-ball defense – it is a work in-progress.
At one point, it was Carter’s left hand that needed work. That skill was developed in his own driveway with his dad, a former professional player in the Dominican Republic, deserving all the thanks.
“I was like, 13 or 14 years old, but at this point, we were pretty much the same height, so it was fair game. He was stronger than me, but we still went at each other. He’d send me in the house crying some days.
“At times, I think people might look at me and think I’m left handed, because I do a lot of things with my left. It’s really because of my dad. We would play, and he would just stand on my right side and tell me I wasn’t going to my right, and I would have to shoot it with my left. I missed a lot. I got mad I was missing layups, and eventually, I just got good at it.”
He seemingly is good at pretty much everything, though. Math, theatre, basketball and interviews, and that is precisely what he was going for.
“I’m glad people view me as that way, so people don’t think I’m just some fool here to play basketball. I think life is more than just basketball, to me. I want people to think that of me, too."