Wendell Carter Jr. of Pace Academy is the best big man to hail from Georgia since Derrick Favors, who signed with Georgia Tech in 2009. If we go by various rankings, here’s where Carter stands among national recruits: No. 3 overall according to ESPN, No. 4 per Scout and No. 5 per Rivals.
Carter has been recruited by every college with a gymnasium. He pared his list to four Tuesday, announcing via his Twitter account:
A few words about those four: Georgia and Georgia Tech made it; Kentucky did not, despite Carter’s belief that he’s a player in the mold of the great Anthony Davis. Ben Roberts of Kentucky.com reports that the Wildcats stopped recruiting Carter over the summer, believing he’s bound for Duke. North Carolina didn’t crack Carter’s final four, either, despite Roy Williams’ publicized-on-social-media appearance at a Pace game last winter.
That Georgia and Tech are included allows Mark Fox and Josh Pastner to say, “We’re in with a chance on the highest-ranked player in our state.” That’s no small thing, given that this state is stacked: Eleven of ESPN’s top 100 recruits hail from Georgia. As yet, none of those 11 has committed to Tech or UGA. (Auburn has gained two commitments from the 11, with Louisville, Florida, Duke and USC netting one apiece.)
As mentioned, Duke is considered the overwhelming favorite for Carter’s services. He’s being recruited by Jeff Capel, whom Mike Bobinski interviewed for the Tech opening but did not hire. But the intriguing name on Carter’s list is Harvard, which he just visited. Maybe you’re thinking, “Harvard’s just on there for show.” Maybe you’re wrong.
The 2016 signing class assembled by Tommy Amaker was ranked 10th nationally by ESPN. To say it was the strongest group in Ivy League annals — though Bill Bradley by himself was a pretty big deal for Princeton — is to damn it with faint praise. It was an excellent class for any school in any league.
Amaker and the Crimson have become major players on the national scene, and Carter takes great pride in his GPA. It would be a long shot if he wound up in Cambridge, Mass., but it wouldn’t be as long a shot as, say, Yale over Baylor in the Big Dance, which actually happened.
About Carter: I’ve met him and seen him play. He’s an impressive young man and a really good player. It’d be nice if he stuck around here for however many seasons he chooses to stay in college — early guess is one — but his dad broke that final four into groups of two for esteemed colleague Ken Sugiura: There’s Duke and Harvard, Carter Sr. said, and then Tech and Georgia.
I’ve said it before, but here it is again: If the two major in-state programs cannot make in-state recruiting hay this season, they’ll have whiffed egregiously. (And not for the first time.) But you know who’s making early hay? Auburn, which currently heads Rivals’ class rankings — subject to major change, duh — for 2017. As noted, two of the Tigers’ commitments are Georgians: Point guard Davion Mitchell of Stockbridge and power forward Chuma Okeke of Westlake.
One thing more: Danny Ferry, of whom you’ve heard, is a proud father of many Pace students. (All five of his children go or have gone there.) He’s a Duke alum who counts Amaker is among his very best friends. Two Marches ago, Ferry drove to Orlando and sat in the stands as Harvard nearly upset North Carolina in the NCAA tournament. Ferry knows the Carters well, but he might have to recuse himself from this one.