Basketball Court a “Second Home” for Duke Recruit Vernon Carey Jr.
Vernon Carey Jr. knows all about the nature of basketball success, enough to never be satisfied and always strive to be better.
“The basketball court, it’s a second home for me,” Carey said, a few days after leading University School in Florida to a second straight 5A Florida state championship. “I just love being able to go there, being comfortable and knowing it makes me happy.”
Carey, a 6-foot-10, 275-pound center and the No. 3 player in the ESPN class of 2019 rankings, is one of 12 standout high school athletes named to represent USA Basketball at the 22nd annual Nike Hoop Summit on Friday, April 12 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. (Tickets)
“It was kind of like a shock being chosen,” he said. “They only choose 12 people, so you never know if you’re going to be one of those 12. I found out when I was at school, and being able to play with the guys they chose is going to make it a pretty exciting team.”
Carey may have been surprised by his selection, but he’s already proven he belongs among America’s basketball elites. Thus far, he has helped lead USA Basketball to two gold medals in international competition. He earned all-tournament honors when the U.S. won the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup this past July, and was named MVP at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship the previous summer.
Carey is a left-hander who can play with his back to the basket, overpower defenders on his way to the rim and has developed a nice 3-point shot. He verbally committed to Duke University, where he will join Nike Hoop Summit teammate Wendell Moore Jr. for the 2019-20 season.
“I’m really excited to be able to play with guys like Wendell Moore who are in my recruiting class, and to learn under Coach Krzyzewski will be an honor,” he said.
Carey started in all seven games in the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup, averaging 11.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game en route to a 7-0 record. In 2016, he averaged a team-high 14.0 points and 6.2 rebounds as the U.S. won the gold medal with a 5-0 record.
Carey is the oldest of four children for LaTavia and Vernon Carey. His siblings include brother Jaylen and sister Taelynn, who are twins, and youngest sister Dynver.
Athletics run in the family. His namesake, Vernon Carey Sr., played offensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins. His late grandfather, Vincent Carey, played basketball at Oral Roberts University, which incited Vernon Jr.’s love of the game.
“He totally influenced me when I was younger,” Carey said. “He introduced me to the game when I was nine years old. My dad wanted me to try both (football and basketball), but I just stuck with basketball.”
While Carey may have inherited the family athleticism, nobody is born with a drive to succeed. That was something he developed.
“When I was younger, like in ninth and 10th grade, I felt like I had to be pushed,” he said. “But as time went on, I matured. I watch guys like Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Joel Embiid. I just want to be great, not settle for something less than I know I can achieve if I work at it.
“My greatest improvements have come over the last two years,” he said, noting a college-length 3-point shot he’s honing. “I feel like my defense has gotten better.”
Carey knows the importance of taking something from every opportunity, and his participation with USA Basketball has helped him understand that.
“To win a gold medal — two gold medals — was a great experience,” he said. “Not a lot of kids get to do what we do. I’m taking in all the blessings. It’s a special feeling to wear that jersey, to represent your country, and to be able to do that means a lot.
“I’ve learned so much from the coaches and competing with the guys on these teams every day.”
He took that attitude into his junior and senior seasons of high school basketball, winning the state championship both times.
“It was a pretty important goal heading into my junior year to win the state title,” he admitted. “Now we’ve won it back-to-back. It was a pretty rough start this season. We didn’t have the kind of chemistry early, but over time, we developed it.
“My teammate Scottie Barnes, who won the two gold medals with me, we had a team meeting in the middle of the season, and he talked about what we could do better and how we could improve our game, and we won the last 10 straight.”
Another title to his credit and Carey is about to return to his second home once again, hoping to be at the center of success for USA Basketball at the Nike Hoop Summit.