The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Georgia Bulldogs, Harvard Crimson and Duke Blue Devils have very little in common. One thing all four universities can find common ground on is in each’s attempt at landing prized recruit Wendell Carter Jr.
Carter has become one of the most discussed prospects this summer. A consensus top-five prospect in the 2017 recruiting class, he has made as much noise for seriously considering Harvard as he has for the skill set he will bring to whatever program he chooses.
Each of the programs mentioned above would obviously be thrilled to land his services, but the idea of him going to any of the non-Duke universities is particularly interesting.
Yes, of course, if he decides to play for Coach K there is nothing wrong with that. Duke is a great program, great players like to go there, enough said.
But that would be boring.
Boring isn’t fun. Anarchy in sports, however, is a ton of fun. If Carter chooses any of the other programs, it is as close to anarchy as we will get out of this situation.
Earlier this offseason, we discussed at length what it would mean for Harvard to land Carter: becoming a modern day Duke of sorts. Out of all four choices at the player’s disposal, this one would be the most shocking to the naked eye.
Let us not ignore the fact that college basketball’s landscape has dramatically shifted over the course of the one-and-done era. Players with realistic pro aspirations — one and done or otherwise — do not have to go to name-brand School X to be on the NBA’s radar.
Basketball has become such an easy sport to scout for NBA front-office folk, to the point that Western Kentucky has become a very legitimate destination for potential future pro players. Location, brand, and TV exposure appear to matter less and less as each season goes by.
Harvard would be neat. That is that.
For those unaware, Georgia and Georgia Tech being two of the four finalists isn’t as patently absurd as it seems. Carter is a Georgia native, and both programs are located in the state. Moreover, throughout the entire recruiting process, Carter’s values have appeared to be far more rooted in family, education, and things of that nature, with basketball falling way down the priority line.
Carter has become an outlier in the world of college basketball recruiting — except this drama is unfolding while Western Kentucky is quickly building a mid-major power, non-Kentucky SEC teams are beginning to recruit incredibly well in high school gyms, and what was once a fundamental pattern — in which the same blue blood programs get all the talent — no longer appears to be in evidence.
While we won’t have any proof of this for years, let it be noted: If Carter picks one of the non-traditional powers — all while programs like WKU continue to emerge — we may look back at his recruitment process as the start of what will be a complete change in how the top players in the country choose universities.
To be Camp Crystal Lake clear about this, though: Carter appears to be an abnormal cat — in a good way. This isn’t a case of nepotism helping the Washington Huskies, or Rick Stansbury having already recruited some talent prior to joining the Hilltoppers. Carter’s values — at least it appears — are so drastically different from 99 percent of players in a similar position that this can mean jack-squat.
Regardless, Wendell Carter Jr. might be different. He may want to do many other things than just be good at basketball, all incredibly admirable things. Yet without even realizing it, even if only indirectly so, he is becoming another top prospect who appears to be shunning the regular top prospect to blue blood program routine we have grown so accustomed to.
As fans, even those of blue blood programs, we should love it.