Behind the Scenes with Wendell Carter

With so many high major programs following him closely, there’s no shortage of opportunities for five star big man Wendell Carter. What will be the most important factor in his decision? Which coaches have made early progress with him? Which coaches have already made mistakes? We got the full scoop from his mother and father who are in charge of managing the recruiting process for their son.

You have a very talented son who is getting a lot of recruiting and media attention, how is the family approaching the recruiting process?

Wendell Carter, Sr.—It’s new and we’re just kinda, we’re careful and we’re just navigating through this because he just actually become an official recruit so it hasn’t really gotten too hectic yet, so we’re just navigating our way through it right now and kinda relaxing.

  Kylia Carter—We’ve also tried to take control of the situation for him because not all coaches have gotten his number, some of them have but not all. We don’t want him to be bogged down with a lot of phone calls and neither do we. We know these coaches spend a lot of time and resources in recruiting him, we’re trying to be very tactful with even who we communicate with. We just think its too much to talk with everybody and we take it one day at a time and try not to overburden ourselves.

Families’ who have that approach usually received counsel or advice that led them to having that type of approach towards the recruiting process, can you shed some light for you guys as parents on what led you to approach Wendell’s recruitment in that way?

Kylia Carter—Because we’re both scholarship athletes ourselves and we’ve been through the process. We’ve both been recruiting by a lot of different schools and a lot of really good schools, we just kinda remembered that and things are a little different with Wendell because he is WAY more talented than either of us ever were at his age by a big stretch. At the same time we try to be real and try to be honest and we just don’t, we understand it takes a lot to recruit a kid. These coaches have their families and other things they like to do and of course they would like to get our son and we understand that, but at the same time we just don’t think it’s fair to waste other people’s time or waste taxpayer’s dollars or any of that, it’s just not smart and we just don’t want to partake in that.

Do you have a very detailed plan as to how you see yourselves handling the recruiting process moving forward?

Kylia Carter—Yes, since he really just became an official recruit-we said let’s sit back because it’s the summertime and not donate all of our time to it but still give some time to it. I am able to have some extra time right now to manage a lot of the phone calls if you will and so with that, we said we’d sit down at the end of the year and cut off, make some decisions because of course people are going to call us when he goes back to school and of course, most of the recruiting calls are going to be happening right now. If it gets quiet once school starts back up we’ll deal with that then. It’s not really hectic honestly, it’s really not that bad right now. It’s really early, he hasn’t even started his junior year yet.

With the June 15th phone call deadline, did you talk with a lot of college coaches that first night?

Kylia Carter--That was actually kinda interesting because we were actually out of the country so we didn’t even have service with our phones internationally and then we came back, we were sitting at the airport and my husband’s phone and my phone were just buzzing and buzzing. We looked and we saw that we had so many calls and messages from so many coaches and honestly, we didn’t even call them all back because there were just so many calls and messages. We did try to respond to as many as we could, but that was the initial thing where everybody was trying to talk to us and I also think that some programs are aware that he is interested in a high-major, high academic school and they don’t even, we don’t even hear from those schools. I guess you call them blue chip schools-we don’t hear from very many non-blue chip schools.

Over a month has passed since then and I’m sure you are probably having much more regular contact with coaches than even Wendell is at this point, can you share which programs you as parents are regularly communicating with at this point?

Kylia Carter—Honestly Wendell has talked with some coaches for a reason, he’s talked with Coach K and with Coach Calipari and the coaches from here in Georgia. We did it that way because for him it makes it exciting because those true super schools and of course the instate Georgia schools are calling him and we felt like that would be enough for him because he’s excited about hearing from them. They have high character, high morals so we felt like these were some good guys to communicate with him. We don’t know anything in particular about any of the other schools and that’s only because of course with Duke and Kentucky, everybody knows about them as programs and Coach K and Coach Calipari are like celebrities and we know that how he sees them.

We also have love for our Georgia schools because that’s where he is from, so with that, that’s the only reason and he also had a really, really good conversation with the coach from Harvard. So we wanted him to have those conversations because of the opportunity those schools have with being such great institutions. We haven’t narrowed anything down and we haven’t moved anybody out, the reason, I’ve noticed in a lot of these articles about him that he talks a lot about Coach K and Coach Calipari because of who they are in the basketball world if that makes sense. That’s where that comes from because to a 16 year old kid, it’s a really big deal to talk to those coaches that he feels are celebrities.

With the conversations you have had as parents with Coach K and Coach Calipar, what are your early impressions?

Kylia Carter—One of the most interesting thoughts that we had as parents is its going to be really tough to decide and let some people down. Our AAU coach told us that we can’t look at it like we’re letting somebody down because it’s hard for us to be the type of people that we are to have a lot of relationships with a lot of different people because our relationships are real. It’s kinda surreal to know that we’re going to have these great relationships with these guys knowing that a decision will ultimately happen.

With you guys being former collegiate athletes, does that influence questions you may have or dialogue you seek with these coaches?

Kylia Carter—Right now its listen to what they have to say and listening to what they have to say about Wendell, what their intentions are for Wendell, intentions of their program and then that’s about it. I know dad is really serious about how they are going to take care of him and so am I. Not that athletes are, we don’t want to it come across that we think that he’s some sort of prima donna or anything like that, we just want to hear how they will take care of him as a person as well as an athletes because there will be certain needs he will have. Like for instance, having class and then having time to eat between and eating properly. We want to make sure that he is taken care of physically, as well as mentally. Also the social side of things, the character development, there are a lot of things that go into making him truly prepared for the next level and we want to make sure those things are considered. Most schools have a handle on those things properly.

So with those areas—have you received any helpful feedback already from programs recruiting Wendell?

Kylia Carter—Yes, those are things we are going to talk about in the future especially when we decide on which schools we’re going to visit. We’re going to take him on unofficial visit first to the drivable schools first of course. We’re going to sit down and have a face to face conversation and actually see what a day in the life of an athlete is actually like so we can see what that is like there. We’re going to be very particular about how they are going to handle him.

  Can you share any examples with that?

Kylia Carter--Number one, he’s an only child. With that there are certain things, expectations that we have like for instance, if you practice in a facility that is across campus and his classes are in one place, his dorm is another place and when he has to go and eat and he has to get in line with every other student on the campus, we’re going to have a problem with that. He needs to be able to get nutrition and he needs to be able to work out and do what he needs to do for basketball and he needs to have proper nutrition and get to his classes in a timely manner, especially if you are expecting him to do this three times a day. We need to make sure that you are going to be taking care of him and that you aren’t expecting him to eat the proper food and not be having to go and grab fried foods that are not conducive to his physical makeup to make him better. If you aren’t focused on those things and making sure that those things and he’s not getting the proper academic support, there’s going to be time management involved as a freshman and there’s going to be some very strict boundaries that he can get used to. We don’t him to just have to kinda see what the situation is as they come, because that’s not how we handle things with him. His life is rather structured.

From a development perspective how much have you already looked at how these various programs recruiting Wendell have utilized and developed players like him at his position?

Kylia Carter--We haven’t looked too much yet, we’re just listening to the schools and what they have to say. That of course is the intent of when we visit and talk to these schools in depth, right now it’s just really general. They’ve given scholarship offers and we have an expectation for lifetime scholarships because we don’t know how long he will be there or when he will, we want the door to be open for him to come back and finish his degree at the school. We have and most schools do do that but we haven’t really focused on yet which schools develop bigs the best because it’s kinda early and we haven’t gotten really too detailed because we haven’t even narrowed the schools down yet.

Wendell Carter, Sr.—One thing I do want to piggyback on that my wife said was that I do watch a lot of college basketball and I do watch their bigs, and I do watch their physical makeup. I’m not going to mention names, but I did watch a college game and their bigs were out of shape so that raised a red flag for me with considering their school because we’re looking at nutrition and matter of fact, all three of their bigs were a little big and appeared to be out of shape, in my opinion. You can look at the body mass and you can see the body structure that there wasn’t enough muscle and the development wasn’t where I would consider to be at that particular level, it made me question their program.

Does that mean that particular program will not be under consideration by Wendell as a possible college destination?

Wendell Carter, Sr.—I wouldn’t say that. There’s a lot of time between now and by the time our son tries to make a decision on where he wants to go. I’ve watched programs, old school programs So when you see something like that I try to pay attention to stuff like that where obviously there’s a weight issue there, that’s something you look at.

As you were watching these teams how much were you looking at the whole team and how they played versus how they played and utilized their bigs?

Wendell Carter, Sr.—I was really looking at the bigs. Their guard play, it was totally different but I played power forward and more than likely that’s the position my son is going to play so I do watch certain athletes and watch those guys. The way the game has developed now, the key is you have to have a certain athletic build. I’ve watched players with those build issues that don’t get control of them—they tend to have very short careers.

What are your thoughts on what is the best approach to utilize Wendell in college?

Wendell Carter, Sr.—Right now it’s still early but I think he’ll have some position flexibility. To be honest with you—I can’t answer that because there’s a whole lot that can still happen. He still has a lot more development to be done. If I were to judge right now with where does Wendell fit in, that’s going to be hard to do.

Kylia Carter—Honestly speaking, if he were going to college right now, I think our scope would be a little different because him going to school, if he were graduating school in August and let’s say we had to make a decision between now and August, we would look at things differently because obviously his goal and his dream is to play in the NBA. With that, we would have to choose a program that does that specifically if we were looking right now at a decision because he needs further development. He has two more years and that’s been the unique thing as parents and as lovers of basketball, we’ve been able to watch him for many years and see him develop. We’ve got videos where we’re not even sure where he is on the floor, but now his intellect has developed so much just from listening and taking things in and us raising him the way we have, his basketball IQ is very high, his athleticism has changed dramatically and we just keep doing the things we’ve been doing with him and that’s why we have no idea where he’s going to be in the future. The way he’s going—he could end up even playing some 3 because he’s working on his ball-handling which is really interesting. We’re really not sure because we want him to be as comfortable as he can be when he’s on the floor and it’s kinda interesting because his upside—we’re just not sure but it’s kinda fun to see.

What kind of stuff is he doing now from a skill development perspective and what is the plan for the fall and winter development wise for his game?

Kylia Carter—What we’re having his trainer do right now which he will actually start back up in August is agility and footwork, he’ll do more of that and he’ll do more ball-handling and shooting. He has a very nice form on his jump shot, so what we’re going to do in working on for next year, our goal is to have him playing on the perimeter a lot. We’re in a unique situation as well with his high school in that because we’re at a private school, we kinda have the ability, his coach is a former guard from the University of Alabama, so we have the unique ability to develop him with some guard skills. They are working on that with him while doing step back, jab step and actually playing on the perimeter. He’ll do a lot of that in the fall and we’ll see a lot more of that during his high school season.

So with that development plan—what do you think that means for you guys as you listen to the roles that the college coaches envision for Wendell at their program?

Wendell Carter, Sr.—Wow, that’s a good question. To be honest with you, the decision that Wendell ultimately will make, his skill set and the way he could end up being, we want to look at his junior year and when he gets done with his junior year and like we said, he’s got a huge upside for his development. So once we see where he’s at that and we see where he’s going, then with the programs we can find out exactly if that will be a good fit for him.

I want to go back to an earlier comment where you mentioned taking some visits to other programs aside from the instate schools—did I hear that correctly?

Kylia Carter—Of course we will be visiting the instate schools out of respect and there are some really good programs here in Georgia and we want him to make sure that he gives serious consideration to because it’s one thing, it’s kinda special to be a hometown kid and stay in your hometown and go to college. At the same time there is a bigger picture for him with bigger dreams that he has for himself. We’re not going to limit him by any means to Georgia schools but we will, he will take a close look at those Georgia schools because there are two great schools being Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. There’s no way we can just say that doesn’t matter because that’s not true and we don’t want anybody to think that. So when people hear him speak about Coach K and Coach Calipari, I want to make it clear to all of the other colleges out there that are interested in him, those are like celebrities to my son, as they are with most people. So the fact that those men communicate with him and stress to him that they need him in their program and they want him at their schools is a big deal to a sixteen year old kid. A lot of these things we see going on on the internet is kinda fan driven if you will because he’s fans of both coaches.

What do you remember if anything about Wendell’s reactions to talking with the Duke staff so far? Anything that really caught his attention?

Kylia Carter—His response to us is usually pretty much the same whenever he talks to any college coach. He’ll say they are nice guys and wow those are great programs and really great people. They say really nice things to him and they speak highly of their program to him, so that’s good. Coach K and Coach Calipari have done a really good job, we actually talked with Coach Calipari and Coach Kenny Payne a lot more before Wendell even knew we were to talking to them because we knew how he would be just to talk to them and with Coach Capel and Coach K, it was kinda the same kind of scenario, it’s exciting for him as a young kid.

How far back does your communication go with Duke and Kentucky?

Kylia Carter—I think it started, Coach Kenny Payne was the first big school and I have to say the only out of that group that had come to Pace Academy to see Wendell practice. That was really a neat experience because they do not, coaches at that level do not come to watch sophomores in practice. That really spoke volumes to us as parents, Wendell didn’t even know who Coach Kenny Payne was and when he came to his practice, my husband and I remembered him because we remember Kenny Payne from before he was Coach Kenny Payne. Then at USA Basketball, when he was training in Colorado to make the USA team is when the communication with Dad and I became more with Coach Kenny Payne and Coach Capel. Our first conversation with Coach K was a few weeks ago. That was our first time talking with him and we had talked with Coach Capel several times. Coach K, our first conversation with him was just a few weeks ago. Coach Capel talked to Wendell and Coach K had talked to Wendell through the high school coach and so they had been in communication with him. Our first conversation with them, we just let that go, at first we were a little jaded about it but when we thought about it, we said that’s Coach K. He got a little favoritism with us because of who he is.

The first conversation with Coach K—how did it go and what kind of things did you discuss?

Kylia Carter—It was really a great conversation. He is a and I have to say the same is true about Coach Calipari and a couple of other college coaches that we have talked to. We typically do not talk with anybody but head coaches simply because that’s the way we want to do it and with that, when we listen to messages or see messages on our phone, if its assistant coaches—we typically don’t call them back because we really, we feel like who is interested in Wendell, the kind of kid that he is—we need to talk with the head coach.

To follow up on that—since you mentioned earlier that you do have conversations with Coach Payne and Coach Capel from Kentucky and Duke—can you share what it is about them that leads you to keep talking with them even though they are assistant coaches?

Kylia Carter—Because we were young in the process, we had just started the recruiting process and didn’t realize that it was going to be quite this busy. It’s not crazy yet but it is really busy and with that, we don’t need a lot of people in the middle of the conversation. So we made that decision after our phones were blowing up after we got back from Argentina and my husband and I just made the decision that we were only going to talk to the head coaches. So with Coach Capel and Coach Kenny Payne, we have relationships with them prior to making that decision and also I have to say that the same thing is true with the coaches at Georgia Tech because we’ve been going to their camps since Wendell was young and they were local and are friends with the coaches there. Those relationships we have kept but we aren’t starting any new assistant coaches relationships.

So with Coach Payne and Coach Capel—do you interact with them differently or ask different questions than what you do with Coach K and Coach Calipari?

Kylia Carter—Not yet but I think my husband and I are beginning to realize that we will have different types of conversations once we get closer to making decisions and looking at what his position will be, what their intentions are for Wendell with how they will use him. We haven’t really gotten that far yet.

Going back to the Coach K conversation—what do you remember about the initial phone call with him and what your reaction was to what he shared?

Kylia Carter—It was him getting to know us as people. In fact, we had conversations with both coaches (Coach K and Coach Calipari) and those are the ones I’m speaking about because they are the head coaches that we have talked to the most and the third in line would be Coach Fox from UGA. They are all good people and they talk to us about Wendell of course and they are actually trying to get to know us. They are asking questions about our lives, what we do, we ask them what they do, we talk about their kids and their grandkids and just relationship type questions. We know they want our son, they know we are interested in their schools because they are great schools.

Has there been anything in those conversations that has surprised you at this point or caught you as unexpected?

Kylia Carter—not really. You know one thing we did learn is that one of the coaches told us not to trust anyone, make them earn our trust because this is a business and people will say anything to get an athlete to sign on the bottom line, which I thought was an interesting statement. I understood it to mean, I don’t want to say which coach said it, I will say it was meant to us to be mindful that this is, there’s not all truth in everything that everyone is saying. It’s interesting because you hear that from other parents or other people and you don’t really think anything about it, but when the coach said it, it made sense to us because these coaches are trying to sell their programs. Whether it be selling houses or selling cars, they tend to tell you what you want to hear and so you have to be mindful of that.

So with that—families who have high major kids who are being recruited—they will talk with other parents either about the recruiting process in general or in some cases, to talk about their sons playing together in college. Are those conversations happening for you guys with any parents of other kids being recruited?

Kylia Carter—Absolutely. We’ve got, our network has gotten very large and very interesting quickly. We know parents from Duke, we know parents from UGA, we know parents from Kentucky, we know parents from Wake Forest, we know parents from Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama and more. These are parents of kids who have had kids at the schools or who are there and we have parents who also have elite kids right now as well. People would be surprised how many parents who these kids are second generation college athletes. So both parents have friends that we meet and not only is it a helpful network that we’ve met, but it’s a really interesting one as well as it goes with making a decision where we are going to go because many of the kids are going to be making their own decision as well which is kinda interesting.

So from that group of parents-has there been any families that has shared some extremely helpful information for you guys?

Kylia Carter—Everybody, they all have been helpful in different ways.

How so?

Kylia Carter—Like they will give us questions to ask or think about. That’s how we became so focused on nutrition and location of the facilities is from talking with a Duke parent. They talked to us about understanding how far your child will have to walk and standing in line and how the nutrition plan is laid out for them. You never think about things to that level of detail until somebody brings it up, so when that parent brought that up, we didn’t even think about it at that point to that level of detail. They told us to think about what would happen if your kid had to stand in line with 200 other kids for food after class and still have to go to workout. So this parent said that was a question that she had when her son was being recruited by Duke, her son went to Duke and it was a question that she had when she was going around to the different schools because of course her son was being recruited by a host of other programs including Duke. So those were some of the things that helped her in them making the decision is just his day to day routine and how he got around campus which you don’t really think about. You see this big-time facilities, these big-time training rooms and workout facilities, classrooms, academic facilities but you don’t think about the reality of your child walking all around the buildings and how much time he has to get there. You don’t think about what his routine is before and after practices, so we honed in on that.

Do you guys as parents talk with other parents of kids in Wendell’s class about the potential fit of their son playing alongside Wendell in college?

Kylia Carter—no, not at all and that’s the cool thing for the kids to have those conversations and then the reporters run with that, but as parents—we do not talk about that at all. That’s because it’s too much to consider to worry about, it would be cool for Wendell if he went to school with some of his friends, but it’s not a priority for us, it’s not a necessity for us. It may be for another kid but not for him.

From a development perspective in college, do view it as more important for him to spend more than one year in college before going pro?

Wendell Carter, Sr.- My wife and I have discussed this on several occasions and with that being said, if the opportunity came and if Wendell was ready—we’re not going to push and make him stay more years but if it’s the opportunity of a lifetime and if he stays healthy and if things are looking in his favor, if he says to us as parents that this is what I want to do—we will support whatever he wants to do. If the opportunity does come and if it’s a dream for him—whose to say that we as parents won’t support him, especially if he has the opportunity to go pro and still come back later and earn his degree.

So with that is the duration of his college career based only on draft stock?

Kylia Carter—it’s too early to tell but if it is at the point, it would be a business decision, we’d be lying to you if we didn’t tell you that we have had the conversations about being one and done but with that, it would be a pure business decision on where he becomes the most valuable for him. If he’s going to be a one and done and come out in the Top 5, then yes it’s time for him to go because you can’t get any better than that. If the situation is reserved and its more maybe he could go in the first round then there are different things to think about because you have different thought processes towards depending on where he falls that round and what it means to him from both a basketball and from a business perspective. At that point it would become a job and it’d be his business and he’ll have to have the proper people in his network to help him consider his options for him.

From a network perspective for his decision—are you guys going to lean on anybody else’s counsel as Wendell makes his college decision—or will it primarily be you two and Wendell?

Kylia Carter—the college decision will be a family decision. We will give our input and what we think, but we will let him make the decision that he feels is best for him because we’re a close family and we probably will all think the same thing, that’s what I imagine will happen.

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