It sounds like there was a lot of time spent in the car for this trip…
Kylie Carter, mother of Wendell Carter: Yeah, it’s definitely not something we want to do on a regular basis. We told Coach K, “if this is the spot, then we need to be looking for an apartment because this was too far to ride.” Duke ended up being our only visit that weekend. We were actually going to try and get Kentucky in and do this whirlwind of a road trip, but the more we thought about it, the crazier it sounded, so we said we’ll go to Duke and then come home and go see somebody else later.
Which visits are next in line at this point?
We haven’t put it on the calendar yet, but we do know that Wendell wants to go to Kentucky and Alabama, UNC and Georgia and Vanderbilt. We’ll likely try to do them one at a time.
Of those schools, is there a preference on where to go next?
Kentucky will be next. He’s interested in seeing Kentucky because he’s only seen the outside, he wants to see more and they are recruiting him pretty hard, so they stay in his mind.
The last time we interviewed you mentioned that Kentucky hadn’t been communicating as much with you guys lately as they were during the summer. Sounds like things are shifting there, correct?
Oh yeah, it’s turned up a notch. Coach Cal has been to the school and Coach Kenny calls us regularly. Honestly, Coach Kenny calls and texts and checks on us frequently. Now Coach Cal is involved and he told us when he came to visit Wendell at the school that there’s a big push for them with their class of 2016, so they are working hard to get those kids. We understand that, we’re 2 years away, there’s really no pressure. If he’s interested, he’s interested.
What’s been the message from Kentucky?
That’s he’s their top priority in the class of 2017, he said it just like that.
As a family, with what you have heard so far from the Kentucky staff, what are your general impressions so far?
We like it, it’s going to be a tough decision for Wendell, and it will come down to those intangibles because he’ll have really good offers and we’ll try to help him as much as we can. It’s going to come down to something with the intangibles is what we think. Dad and I were talking about it and we think it’s going to be something with someone that’s going to put them ahead of the other guys because you can only pick one school and these are great schools, great coaches. I don’t what it’s going to be that’s going to put somebody ahead, we have no clue where he’s going to be and when we ask Wendell, he says the same thing, he’s looking for what he really wants.
With the coaches recruiting Wendell, has there been anything they have said or things you have seen that really intrigue you?
No, not particularly yet.
Let’s switch gears and talk about the Duke visit, what stood out in your mind as you look back on the trip?
With Duke…one of the neat things about Duke is that the players live in the freshman dorm with the other students which Wendell thought was kinda cool. Cameron Indoor was really interesting, very small, intimate, full of students. The students play a big part in their fan base which was also something that Wendell said he liked. It’s a very, even though it’s a big school but it felt very college-like, he said he really feels that he would be a part of the student body there, it’s not just athletes over here, students over there, that kind of thing. He felt like it would be a real college experience.
How did Duke measure up to your preconceived notions going into the visit?
It definitely exceeded our expectations. We did not realize how intimate it was for it to be such a large school, they have a big basketball presence there and basketball is a big deal to them there you can tell and that’s always a plus, for them to see value in their basketball program which they clearly do there.
Was that impression formed just by observing the fans at the game, or was it shaped by other things you saw or heard?
For it to be a Midnight Madness type of event, the stadium was at capacity and the majority of the people there for that were students. The people out in the courtyard prior to the game, it was like a big event, families were out there just hanging out, when we went to restaurants there were basketball fans and families hanging out at the restaurants, there were basketball fans in our hotel and this was just for a Blue vs White game which I thought was rather impressive. I’m sure other schools may do the same, but I thought that was really impressive because it was my understanding that it was the same with the Kentucky event and probably at other schools around the country as well, but I was really impressed by so many people wanting to be engaged and a part of all of that. There were people who spent the night on the courtyard in tents so they could get in which was interesting, I mean, camping outside for days.
How do those experiences and anecdotes factor into the evaluation process?
It’s more that it was that was cool to experience, it was just unexpected for us to see that because that was not what I expected to see and I know Wendell was not expecting that either. It was like “wow and we get to have five visits”?
The other interesting thing was the fans knew who Wendell was by name, that was really impressive. We were walking around touring the campus and people were coming up saying, “Hey Wendell Carter, can we have your autograph?” Wendell was shocked, he told me, “Mom these people were calling my name and asking for my autograph,” and I turned and looked at the gentleman and he told me that he knew my son, he said that’s Wendell Carter, he’s the #1 power forward in the country and that’s Gary Trent over there, he knew Gary’s name too, we were like “wow”.
How did it go with being able to spend time on campus together with the other recruits and their families who were on campus with you all?
It was cool. We knew Gary was going to be there, so it was cool to be able to see those families again and spend time with them. Wendell was hanging out with Gary and with Tre, that was really neat. We were talking about the recruitment process and how it was going and just kinda taking it all in. Gary Trent and his dad were asking us when we were going to be going to Kentucky because they had gone to Kentucky and we talked about how it was.
Did anything about the impression of Duke change for you during the visit?
It was probably more reinforcement and after talking with Wendell, that’s similar to what he said. I guess I shouldn’t say that it exceeded our expectations, it really met what our expectations were, we kinda expected certain things to be the way they were, especially with the fans. As far as the school and all that, he just thought it was a really neat experience but he kept telling us, “this is only my first visit Mom, haha.”
What were your impressions of how life is kinda organized around campus with where Wendell would be at with basketball and classes and dorms and all that?
I thought it was good, Wendell said everything was close together and he liked that and was accessible as it was, it was tight. We walked to the academic buildings and those were pointed out to us and we walked to the Commons area and we walked around the restaurants and we walked around Cameron Indoor and then the facility itself is nice. We actually said that we wanted to save seeing some of the stuff for our official visits like the basketball facility and other things because we were there on a Saturday, we said when he comes back for his official visit that he wants to come up on a Friday because he wants to see the whole academic thing, go to class, actually sit down with the academic counselor because going on a Saturday, it was a little bit different.
As you walked around with the Duke staff, what kind of things were they pointing out or emphasizing?
I’m trying to think, I don’t think it was anything in particular because we were in kinda a group thing, we were walking and talking about things in general like how close the buildings were together, how accessible things were, that was about it really.
Speaking of official visits, Gary Trent Sr recently shared with us that they are looking at the possibility of doing some official visits in January, is that something that you guys as a family are looking at as well as a possibility?
Yeah we are too, Wendell wants to do some of his official visits earlier, more for him it will probably be in the spring and that’s simply because he’ll be in his season in January and February and during that time with the academic rigor at his school, it keeps the schedule really tight. We’re not going to worry about anything with that until March because he does plan on going for that State Championship. He definitely hopes to get in some visits to some schools in March, especially those who aren’t competing in the Final 4.
Those March visits, are you targeting those to try and be official visits or unofficial visits?
We would like to actually, with not knowing who will be in the Final 4 in March, we would like to visit Harvard in March and maybe I think he wants to go see Stanford and Cal-Berkeley as well, he wants to see a West Coast school.
Last time we spoke you also mentioned the possibility of wanting to do the official visit to Duke kinda early on after Harvard, is that still trending in that direction or are changes happening there?
No, we probably will save the official for later. If we even do an official to Duke because we can actually do, he’s going to want to see Duke during the week, so if there’s other schools that he wants to see that are further away, we’d use the official visits for that because he’s just not really narrowed down those 5 official visits because he’s very particular about certain schools that he wants to see. He wants to use those visits for that and so we can go see the drivable schools on our own, do the weekend and pay for itself on our own and go see the schools then.
Based on that do you think you saw enough at Duke to where it not as necessary to do the full official visit with them, or is there still much more you need to see and learn with them?
He’s not really sure, we’re definitely going back during a week, we just don’t know if we’re going to call it an official visit or unofficial, I don’t know where his mind really is with that. He may say in March that these are my top 5 schools and these are where I’m going to do my visits to and he could just decide from those. I’m definitely sure that Duke will be in that mix though. I think we’ll try to visit Duke during the season.
Have they tried to pinpoint a visit date or series of dates to make that happen?
Oh no, not yet. He really wants to see those other schools, so we have to try and get those schools in next month. He’s trying to get 2, maybe 3 more school visits in before Thanksgiving. Alabama, Georgia and Vanderbilt are all less than 3 hours from our house.
You mentioned earlier that North Carolina was another school you were looking at visiting—what’s the potential visit process with them at this point?
We haven’t thought about that one yet because that’s a little bit further away, I’m not sure if he wants to push that at this point, I would rather him probably wait that one out because we can actually do those other schools I just mentioned on a Saturday morning and come back on Saturday night.
What’s been the spark to change up the visit plans as you’ve shared tonight?
Those coaches have come and spoken with us at the school and left an impression on Wendell that made him want to go see those schools. Basically it’s those drivable schools that have come and recruited him and made an impression on him enough to where he wants to go see those schools. I guess it says something about the head coach coming to see the kid, it makes a difference with him.
With the programs you’ve mentioned, are the coaches contacting you would you say in an equal amount, or are there any who are contacting the family more?
If I had to say, it’s probably kinda equal but maybe a little more with and this is only because of relationship I think, the University of Georgia, Duke and Kentucky probably contact us the most because of the relationships we’ve had with them since the summer. They are the older relationships.
With Georgia, Kentucky and Duke do you feel like you are hearing similar recruiting pitches from all three?
It’s kinda the same, I think it’s the same.
Since you are putting effort into trying to figure out Wendell’s fit and how you feel about each program, is there anything you have seen or heard with them that is leading you to feel differently about those programs you just mentioned?
No not yet. I think as we begin to narrow the list, I think it will be more specific. We will have more specifics then, right now there are differences in the schools that we are noticing. There are some key things in them that we will be comparing to when we do the other visits. We kinda have some things to compare at this point which is what the visit process is for. Duke was our first school, so with other schools-we will look for specific things to compare to Duke if that makes sense.
Any examples of that?
Yes we liked the facilities and the accessibility.
During the Duke visit when you sat down with the coaches to talk, what were the main points from them in those settings?
They talked with Wendell about his goals, they want to help him achieve the goals that he wants to achieve. We talked about him having a lifetime scholarship so he can always come back if he leaves early.
Did they discuss where they are with their recruiting efforts in Wendell’s class and the class ahead of him in 2016?
They were focused on Wendell, but they did ask him who in his class would he like to play with. He went down the list of everybody and they asked him if he was really cool with playing with any of those guys and he said yes, it was that kind of thing.
To follow up on that, separate from Wendell and Gary Trent Jr being open about wanting to play together in college, what other guys in Wendell’s class is he potentially interested in playing with them in college?
He talked about all the guys on the USA team, he talked about the guys he played with in the Bahamas like Mohamed Bamba, Jarred Vanderbilt from the USA team, EJ Washington, I guess the reason I hesitate to say a lot of names because there’s no one that he wouldn’t want to play with, a few names may have popped into his head just because he’s played with them before.
With Mohamed Bamba, what is your thought processes towards him and Wendell potentially playing together in college?
That would be cool, he’s a very athletic, very talented young man.
Do you think those two are a natural fit to play alongside each other potentially?
No, that would have to be coached because they play the same position. When we were talking with the Duke staff they had actually brought up his name too before we did and when they were talking with us about all those different names in his class, Wendell told them “I could play with anybody”. It wasn’t anybody that we singled out, even Gary Trent wasn’t singled out, it was just we think it would be neat to play with each other just like it would be neat to play with Tre Jones, but Tre’s only a sophomore, so they may not be able to have that. I don’t know, they didn’t say anything in particular and they did mention Mohamed’s name but that’s because they are recruiting him. It would be interesting to see how they would work that but Coach K could probably do it, if there’s anybody that could do it, Coach K could probably do it.
Did the Duke staff communicate how they felt they could make it work if Wendell and Mohamed both came there?
They were the ones who brought his name up and said that would be a good look, so I assume they already have a plan to make that work. What that is, I don’t know.
Do you think it makes sense for you with Wendell’s decision for him and Mohamed to potentially play together in college?
I wouldn’t be concerned, it wouldn’t concern us at all. When the staff brought it up, I thought it was interesting to see how that would work because we kinda saw a little bit how it could work when we were in the Bahamas because they played together. In fact they started, it was him, Mohamed and Jonathan Isaac on the floor all at the same time together and all of them are 4s. It was kinda interesting because Wendell with them on the floor together, he kinda naturally went on the floor to the lane, he played around the lane a lot. Isaac was on the wing and Mohamed played on the opposite block and it kinda worked.
From a relationship building perspective, what did the Duke visits do you for you guys with the Duke staff and the players?
It was very helpful in just them getting to know Wendell more and communicating with them, it was good because we had some times with them ourselves and they assured us that Duke is a great fit for him and Coach K said it was the perfect place for him, that was his word. I joked with Coach K, I told him that “you say that to all the recruits don’t you, haha”. He said, “well, not all of them.” They are very targeted in their recruiting which I also find to be very interesting as well. They don’t go after everybody, they just go after certain guys and with him having said that to us before, I said, “well, if that’s the case, then it’s perfect for everybody that you are going after, haha.”
You’ve used the word “interesting” a lot in this interview related to the Duke visit and things you saw or heard during the visit. For you—does “interesting” equate to questions are answered or is it more so it’s “interesting” because it’s prompted more questions and things you want to learn additional information about?
For us it means it was enlightening and there has been value-added, they did answer and I don’t know if we had any unique questions with what we did or saw, it was value-added if that makes sense. Visiting the school and like I said, this was our first visit with Wendell, but it does add value to the process with them and I can see why going on a college visit is so important because it does add value by being able to walk from building to building and knowing where the freshman dorm is and this is what the freshman dorm is going to look like, just those simple things, it makes it interesting and it adds value to the school. I don’t know why anybody would commit without seeing the school. That’s what interesting means for us.
With the overall plan for when Wendell may make his decision, now that you are looking at the November and spring visits—has there been any change in your family process on when you are thinking it’s a good time for Wendell to do the final decision making process?
If I had my say, I would like for him to know where he wants to go to college before his senior year of high school. But I don’t want to pressure, there’s no pressure for him, but we don’t want to do this all through senior year I hope. I definitely would like for him to know his Top 5 by AAU and possibily a decision be made in the summer but I can’t say that for sure because I wouldn’t put that pressure on him to have that expectation of him. If he can’t make up his mind by then, then there’s no pressure, but we should be able to narrow the list down by then.
Do you think Wendell will lean on you and your husband a lot to guide how he goes about the list-cutting and final decision making process, or will you look to him to set the tempo with that process?
We’re going to let him decide with guidance. He’ll have a list of things, when he tells me the list of schools that he likes, he’s going to have to tell me why. Then we’ll go from there.