The state’s biggest basketball recruit in an overstuffed year for local talent — 12 in-state products are ranked in ESPN Recruiting’s top 100 — picked Duke. Wendell Carter Jr. announced his decision in a James-Bond-ish video produced by Bleacher Report. (You might find it overdone. I found it amusing.)
This is not a surprise. When I ventured to Pace Academy last winter to see him play, the consensus was that, even though North Carolina and Kentucky were making pitches, Duke was the clear leader — with Harvard as a long-shot possibility. Even as Carter pared his list to four finalists, two of which were Georgia and Georgia Tech, the feeling remained that it was Duke, then Harvard, then the locals. Now it’s Duke and Duke only.
Which is great for Duke. ESPN ranks Carter as the nation’s No. 3 prospect, and he could well help the Blue Devils win a seventh NCAA title — assuming the sixth arrives in April — for Mike Krzyzewski. He’s surely yet another one-and-done in the lengthening Duke line of Kyrie Irving, Austin Rivers, Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Brandon Ingram. (There’ll be more come spring.) If you’re only going to spend a few months on a college campus, odds are you’d spend them in Durham, N.C., or Lexington, Ky.
Back to those 12 Georgians in ESPN’s top 100: Two have picked Duke, two Auburn; one has picked Alabama, another Florida, another Louisville and another USC. The only one to pick an in-state school is small forward Rayshaun Hammonds of Norcross High, who’s the most heralded Bulldogs signee since Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2011. According to ESPN, Hammonds ranks 39th nationally and fourth among Georgians. He’s a good player. But he’s only one good player.
Per ESPN, none of the three uncommitted Georgia products lists Tech or UGA as a possibility. Meaning: Even with the Peach State ranking as the most fertile of soils, no local program is going to make hay — apologies for mixing agricultural metaphors — off the in-state crop.
That’s also no surprise. It has been happening for a while now. Still, in this bountiful year, it is a major disappointment. Of the programs ranked among Rivals’ top 10 recruiting classes for 2017, four — Alabama, Duke, Auburn and Louisville — have landed players from this state. Duke and Louisville you can understand. But Alabama and Auburn?