Behind The Scenes With 5-Star Wendell Carter

Perhaps the top target in the class of 2017, Wendell Carter, continues to field high major interest from every elite program in the country. But, it appears that one is beginning to establish itself as the leader of the pack. We got the scoop on that and much more from the five star player’s mother.

How have things been since we last spoke?

Kylia Carter, mother of Wendell Carter:  We’ve been doing pretty good, it was a tough season but a great end. The state championship game went really well and Wendell did great, but it was extremely physical and it was violent and very frustrating because they were obviously trying to take him out of the game and were hitting him all over including the crown of his head and when he was on the ground for a loose ball he got hit in the head as well and in the face. It was extremely physical. We still won though, we won by a large margin which was great. It felt really good to win that, he’s really happy and when he’s happy, and we’re happy. He did hit a 1000 points this year too. He’s probably the first person to hit a 1000 points at that school.

Last time we talked you mentioned that Wendell was going to be some different things offensively this year to utilize more of his skills, how did that go this season?

Oh fantastic. He’s got the highest 3-point percentage on the team. He was the reason we broke the press so often because he would be the press breaker in our offense. He brought the ball down the floor several times and he shot a lot of outside shots. We’re very pleased with that. He had a couple 100% from 3 games, and he hit 7 in a row across two games before he missed one. He probably shot around three or four three-pointers a game.

Were they still playing him at the center spot in the offense and he just had freedom to play at different spots on the floor?

He was in a offense where he was never the five, he played a lot where there were two forwards and one of them may be in the lane and then when he went out of the game, another big would come in. He actually played in the state championship…you probably saw him at every position including point guard. We had a legitimate three and four and his coach actually tried to move it around too because we had that 6’6 guard/wing guy and we had another 6’6 kinda forward, so he played several positions and was moved around. On the books he was a center, but he probably shot as much from the outside as he did in the outside.

So with Wendell being moved around a lot on offense this season, did you notice him playing a lot in certain areas like say in the paint, or free throw line extended or just outside the lane? 

He probably played the majority around the lane and free throw line area. He would come out, his primary position he’d be in the high post a lot but he moved around. He had a lot of opportunities and it kinda varied because this year’s team was a little different because they had a lot of high IQ guys but they were locked into positions they knew and then Wendell moved around a lot. Then in the tournament Wendell was around the perimeter a lot because of how violent it was getting in the paint. Don’t get me wrong, he did spend some time in the paint and that’s his natural habitat, but you did see him at the top of the key, free throw line extended, he shot a lot of 3s, he was at the short corner, as the season went towards the end—you saw him a lot all around the court.

So during his season which coaches did you notice making a regular effort to be there for his games either during the playoffs or regular season?

That’s a good question, Coach Fox from UGA was there for most of his game. He was for sure the coach we saw the most at his games. We did see a few other programs as well, but Coach Fox was the most.

Did you notice primarily assistants from programs like Duke and Kentucky at any of Wendell’s games this year?

We saw Pettway, but he’s an assistant coach. For head coaches we saw Coach Roy (Williams), the coach from Notre Dame, the head coach. We didn’t know him, but we saw him at the game. It was a big deal after-there was a tweet about him being there I think. I think schools know that we’re kinda short listed without having verbalized his short list but there are coaches who have already assumed that there is a short list, that’s our take on it. The recruiting process is not that stressful for us.

Which programs would you say you did you have an opportunity to have a good dialogue with during your season considering how busy I assume you guys were?

No, we did not because the season really is so busy and Wendell’s school is 33 miles from our house, so there’s a lot of commuting, he’s involved in the school and I try to volunteer at the school when I can. We’re just really kinda busy with that, so we didn’t put a lot of energy into building a lot of relationships because we are southerners and relationships really mean a lot to us and they are hard to build a lot of relationships with a lot of people we’re sure will ask. So we just played it by ear and if you called us, we talked to you.

Which programs then did make that effort to call that led to good conversations?

We communicate a lot with Duke with Coach Capel. We’ve communicated a lot with the University of Georgia. Harvard, Stanford, Alabama, Wake Forest talks to Wendell a lot, but they haven’t reached out to me or my husband yet. And we didn’t even know that Wendell had talked to them, I think he had told me that they had talked with him maybe 2 or 3 times, but we haven’t talked with them yet which we initially thought was kinda strange, but we’re ok—I don’t even know how they got his number. We also talk with Coach Kenny Payne from Kentucky, but not as much. We’ve probably talked with them the least.

Is that by design or choice?

No, we really don’t expect a whole lot of communication with them. They know we are interested, and we’ve been to Duke and we’ve talked to Coach Kenny Payne and Coach Cal has been to the school. They’ve offered him a scholarship and the next step in his progression will be his official visits and making some decisions about college.

Are you guys in the planning process yet for any official visits?

Yeah it’s still to come. We know what our plan is to see Harvard, Stanford and Cal in the spring and then we’ll do, I’m assuming my son will want to do Kentucky because he hasn’t actually been to Kentucky, he’s just talked with them a lot. So he’s going to probably let Kentucky be an official and since he’s been to Duke a couple of times actually, I’m not sure if he will use his last official visit for them, but he may. We will probably do, I’m not sure for Wendell, but we may save Duke and Kentucky for the fall and that’s because of the basketball environment down there in October.  We may try to get down there in October before his season starts in November. We will do Kentucky’s Midnight Madness this year because we did Duke’s last year. We couldn’t make it to both at the start of this year, but the drive was just going to be too much so we just did Duke. We did Duke’s Midnight Madness and then his school team went on a visit to Duke for a game, the whole team. We did that at Duke, Alabama, our coach actually played at Alabama and we did UGA also and Georgia Tech.

It sounds like you guys feel it may not be as necessary to do another Duke visit since you have visited several times already, is that correct?

Now, I’m looking at this just from my perspective and I haven’t talked about this with Wendell yet, but I don’t think that would be necessary because he’s done Duke but, they have indicated they would like for us to come for an official visit so they can spend some quality time with just us as a family. Each time we’ve been before there were other recruits there, so they would like for us to come for the individual part of what they want to show and talk with us about as a family. I don’t think that’s necessary because my son likes Duke so much and I don’t think that’s really  necessary, but he’ll probably want to do another visit just because he likes them and it there so much. Wendell hasn’t said to us yet what official visits he actually wants to go do except for the four I talked to you about with Harvard, Stanford, Cal and seeing Kentucky. I also told him that we don’t have to do an official to Kentucky since it’s like 6 or 7 hours from home so we could do that unofficially, but I was telling him he should just go ahead and do an official there if he wants. He’s kinda narrowed it down to those five, well they are in the eight because he also has the University of Georgia, he likes UGA and so do we since it’s local.

So you are of the opinion that because you have visited Duke a couple of times that it’s not necessarily as important to visit them again, what do you think you have either seen or heard there that has led to you having that thought process?

I think for me, I think I’ve seen enough, and I’m satisfied because Duke is a great school. I can’t think of anything, when we went up for Midnight Madness it was a great visit and it’s a great school. What I want for Wendell is to make sure and this is what I’ve told him is to make sure you have something to compare it to. It’s hard to find a school that does basketball and academics at the level that Duke does. We’re not going to find anything else like that I don’t know, but I know there are some other great schools that I would like for him to see and then that way you are comparing apples to apples. It’s hard to compare Duke to say Alabama or UGA, they aren’t the same. So for me since there’s definitely an interest for me for him to go to Harvard, I’d love for him to see Harvard and since he likes the West Coast so much to also see Stanford and Cal-Berkeley since they are the #1 publicly held institutions and they are great schools that I want him to see so that when you choose Duke, you are choosing Duke because you’ve compared Duke to something else. If you choose Harvard it’s because you’ve compared them to something else, you don’t go to one school and say that’s it. I want you to see different schools so you can feel good about your choice since you’ve compared it to something else. What I want for my son is Harvard, that’s what I want, but that’s me.

What has led you to have that opinion of Harvard?

Because it’s about more than basketball for me with him going to college. I understand he may only be there for a year, but a year at Harvard versus a year anywhere else will be different for you. That’s just being as real as I can be. I’m not even sure, but I don’t want him doing what I want him to do either, but he does know that Harvard would be my choice for him and it was my choice for him even before he started basketball. I talked to him about Harvard when he was in elementary school, we talked about Ivy League schools. Back then Harvard when he first started playing basketball, but Harvard made it that year to the field of 64 for basketball, I can’t remember what year that was, they’ve made it a couple of times and this past time when they made it, I drew some attention to it with him and I let him know that this is about more than basketball. When Coach Amaker came and talked with us and Wendell, he’s a good guy and he’s a Duke guy himself, he’s just a quality guy. He talked with Wendell about what would separate himself from being just your regular professional basketball player. Wendell was really excited at the time and he talked with him about, trying to remember what questions he asked Coach Amaker—but he did talk about, he asked him about life as a basketball player on that campus, what’s it like being an Ivy League player. He talked about how Harvard graduates more billionaires than any other school, and just the quality, it’s just a different quality of education and options there. It’s just a different group of people there, but I know I would love to have that for Wendell because he’s such an academic-minded kid, I would love for him to have the best academic experience you could possibly have. My question to Wendell has always been is why not choose the best academic school and choose the school that can do more for you than you can do for them?

From a relationship perspective with both you and Mr. Carter and Wendell, can you compare where your relationships are at this point with the Harvard and Duke staffs?

I really can’t because the only person we’ve talked to from Harvard has been Coach Amaker and an alum that came to one of our games. If it’s based on relationship solely, the better relationship is with Duke for Wendell because they have related with him more than Harvard has.

What do you think has led to that relationship growing so strongly with Duke?

I have to honestly say that they have talked to me more than Harvard has. I probably hear from Coach Capel weekly, at least. Now it’s more just dropping a line and saying hello, how’s your day, just general stuff like who they are playing, who we are playing, what’s your chances for getting into the tournament, that’s what it’s been a lot during the season. Just basic questions, nothing deep, they asked when Wendell’s play was going to be that he’s in so they could come watch him in his play at school. They’d like to come down and see him in that. Just normal stuff like that.

What for you then would you say has been the most helpful or memorable things you have heard in your conversations with the Duke staff?

It’s just been more kind than even helpful I would say. The common niceties of conversation, just letting us know that Wendell is a real priority for them and we absolutely know that and we can tell that he’s a priority for them. They communicate with us and it’s not anything, now that I think about the text messages—it’s been mostly over text messages and it hasn’t been, it’s just the fact that they do text and I know my son is interested in that school, that’s been about it to be honest with you. It hasn’t been that deep.

What has Wendell shared with you guys as to his reasons why he likes Duke so much?

When we went the first time to the campus for Midnight Madness and we spent the night and he got the opportunity to spend the night in the dorm with the guys. On the ride home we were talking about the visit that the one thing that stood out the most to him was that if he was there, he would be a regular college student and he liked that, he liked the thought of just being able to be a student. Duke handles even though they have had some outstanding players and pros that have come through that program, when you are on that campus, you get to be a college student. They live in the dorm with other college students and they go to class with other freshman and students, they are not separated out and treated differently, they aren’t mobbed and they don’t have I guess some of the concerns that go on at some of the larger schools because Duke is really a small school in terms of population size and so they don’t have, they play in Cameron Indoor Stadium and it’s small and it’s packed with students and they love their basketball team and that’s that. Wendell got a really big kick out of that, he saw how basketball was such a big deal with those students. He was talking with the players and they were telling him how they went to class just like every other regular student and they were telling him, we’re in college here, we’re just like regular college students here. He’s been told by people about the larger schools like Kentucky and Kansas and places like that that the athletes are kinda separated from everybody else. They eat separately, they live separately, they have to move them around separately because it’s not about the student population at their games or practices with these bigger schools, their students are more like regular fans with the way the facilities are, so they have to treat the athletes a little differently, they have to protect them a little differently. At Duke it’s not like that and I found that hard to believe initially, like I asked them how do they do that and it just works, it just has its own network there and I can’t explain it, but those players, those kids just get to be regular college students, they get to walk around on campus like everybody else.

How do you feel about that kind of situation?

I definitely am not speaking bad about Duke in any way, I thought that was just awesome, I like it a lot.

What do you remember about what Wendell shared about his second visit to Duke when him and his team visited for the early season game?

Oh he definitely remembered the students at the game. They chanted their “Wendell Carter come sit with us” chant again and they clapped and got excited when he walked into the gym, that kind of thing. That tickled him a bit but that was it since he drove up with his team and they left right after that. He did get to talk with Coach Capel and Coach K while he was there. 

Since then have you guys heard anything else from the Duke staff that has solidified how you guys feel about them as a program?

It hasn’t been anything significant really, just really nice and cordial, just letting me know they are interested in my son, that kind of thing and really, their approach is we are interested in the whole family which I really like and appreciate. I have to say, I like Duke a lot but I also like Kentucky, I like UGA a lot and I talk with Wendell a lot about it because we haven’t even seen Stanford or Cal-Berkeley yet and the staffs there are really nice. We haven’t been to those schools to see them and I’m wondering if that will change anything. I don’t know if it will.

Is it a firm plan that he’s going to visit the West Coast schools you’ve mentioned, Kentucky and Harvard as official visits?

The only ones that are that he’s certainly going to see are Harvard, Cal-Berkeley and Stanford. Those are the three schools he’s going to see and that’s because I want him to. He’s interested in the three but I don’t know if he visits them without my input into that, I don’t even know.

Since there’s a plan with firm ideas about what you guys are looking at with the visits, does that extend to having a firm plan for how you want the rest of the recruiting process to continue and ultimately wrap up?

No not yet, but it will be soon. I haven’t even thought about the in-home visits yet for example, I know they are coming up, but I would like for Wendell to make a decision before the end of his senior season. I would like for it not to take all the way into the spring next year, I want all that pressure taken off with the coaches having to come in during that time so that if you make your decision earlier, all the pressure is off for your senior season. I think it would simplify things for him but I don’t know if he’s ready for that yet.

It sounds like it’s shaping up for Wendell to have a decision and to sign with a school in the November signing period.  Is that a good read of the situation?

I would love for that to happen, but I can’t say that it would at this point.

Are there any circumstances that could happen that would lead to that current understanding to change and a decision come either during the summer or early fall or before the senior season starts?

I don’t know, my hope when this first started back in the fall and we had all those coaches coming through, all the presentations, my thought was this time next year you’d be able to make a decision and now, that’s kinda stretched out and I’m looking at a little further away now as its not in my face as stressful as it was back then. I kinda look at it now that he can take his time and decide when he wants to decide. He’ll know what feels right when it feels right. Let’s just go with it.

Do you guys need to see what happens with any players either being recruited from Wendell’s class or who leave early for the draft from programs before Wendell will likely be able to make a decision?

That’s not even a part of the equation. There’s a plan that we haven’t nailed down all the particulars for yet, but there’s a plan.

We haven’t even touched how the spring AAU season is shaping up for Wendell—do you guys have those plans all firmed up yet?

No we haven’t decided on an EYBL team yet, he’s not going to do a full EYBL season this year, but our plan is for him to do two sessions and if the team qualifies for Peach Jam, then he can play in Peach Jam because USA Basketball is a big commitment this year since we’re going to be in Spain for over two weeks and it’s a lot of basketball and a lot of training, they go really hard. We’ve decided that last year he did a little more than he needed to do because he was paying a price for it at the end. So we’re going to pull him back a little bit and we also wanted him to hopefully do something on the Adidas Circuit this year.  He’s not going to play in their games, he’s only going to play EYBL games, but Adidas is looking to do a special program for a few special players and they invited Wendell to be a part of this program and we’re considering letting him do it.  It’s a program they are calling The Path, and they’ve invited players from Adidas, Nike and Under Armour, they are bringing them together in a more training setting than basketball playing, it’ll culminate with an event in Australia after their training where they will play a national team from Australia. So we’re thinking about how we can get that scheduled since they won’t just be playing basketball, they are going to do, they have a little plan/schedule for ways to train better, eating right, financial responsibility. There’s three stops and each stop is focused on a certain element if you will like branding, marketing, kinda preparing them for college and beyond.

Are you familiar with any of the other players that have been invited along with Wendell to participate in that?

Just a couple. Kevin Knox is one, Gary Trent is another and somebody told Wendell that Gary Trent was going to be doing it and Kevin Knox’s dad told me that Kevin had been invited. They invited 9 boys from the Nike Circuit and I think there’s only 12 spots in this thing. It sounds like a lot like the Bahamas thing we did last year with Nike, but that was only Nike kids in that.

Is there a relationship with the Knox family?  Seems like a lot of communication...

No not a lot, we’ve talked a few times and he was actually trying to get us to come over to Each 1 Teach 1 to play with Kevin, but I told him that we’re not going to be doing that. That’s really how we got to talking about plans for the summer because Kevin and Wendell were actually roommates for USA, so they are buddies. Actually Kevin and Wendell talk a lot, but I don’t think they have talked about playing together, they are just good friends. That would be cool for them to play together because Kevin is a really great player—it would be cool if Kevin wanted to go to the school that Wendell goes to. 

You’ve mentioned Mohamed Bamba before and what that would look like for him and Wendell to possibly play together, have you guys talked a lot more about that with him or just in general?

Not at all, but Wendell told me that him and Mohamed have talked about it. They may be planning something or just talking about how they are being recruited by some of the same schools since they are, so they have probably chatted about it but we definitely haven’t talked really seriously about it, not at all. All they would have to say is we’re playing at the same school, that would be that. I know Wendell told me that Mohamed is very interested in Harvard. I think it would go well for Wendell and Kevin and Mohamed for either way to play together or not, but they definitely could play together because Wendell has played with Kevin in USA and they played well together and he only played with Mohamed in the Bahamas that one time but with all of their high IQs and abilities with a good coach, it would work.

Have any other coaches broached that subject with you in discussion?

Yeah the Duke staff asked us when we were there what we thought of Mohamed Bamba and we told them that he’s a great player. They offered him back in October I believe. We haven’t talked about it since then.

You mentioned you guys are still figuring out what EYBL team Wendell is potentially playing with this spring and summer, can you elaborate on that process a little bit?

It looks like it may shape up to be CP3 All Stars but I don’t know because Wendell is talking with friends and seeing where each guy is going and what teams are looking like because the one thing he does not want to do is he doesn’t want to be the only profiled player on the team. He doesn’t want to be in that situation in the EYBL, he wants to be around other good players because it’s too much pressure.

Which other players and programs is he having those discussions with?

We actually looked at the two teams in Florida and decided against doing that, that was Each 1 Teach 1 and Miami South Beach. The reason why we even considered Miami South Beach is because they already have a big and that’s really huge for Wendell, he wants to be on a team where he is clearly not the 5. He wants to be the 4, he wants to be clear and he doesn’t want to be put at the 5 when they tell him he’s going to be the 4. He wants to play in and out of the lane. So of course that is what I think is his biggest hesitation in choosing between CP3, We All Can Go and the Georgia Stars because the Georgia Stars already has their team in place and they have a big already. His home base it makes things easier but if he would rather go over to CP3 that’s fine and if he wants to go to We All Can Go, that’s fine too. I don’t even know, all I know is he’s not planning on making the first session of the EYBL because he’s doing that play at school, so that’ll be an interesting take on things. He’s not planning to do Brooklyn, he’ll probably do 2 and 3 and hopefully what will happen if they can win in Brooklyn without him, then they can definitely win with him in 2 and 3, then he doesn’t have to worry about doing 3 and he could do 2 and 4, that’s right because #4 is is Atlanta. With We All Can Go, John Petty and their program is very family oriented. Not that CP3 is not because they are family oriented too, those guys, the culture and the coaches at We All Can Go are very tuned into family, they want to make sure Mom and Dad are ok and you well know that most people aren’t concerned with mom and dad, they are just concerned with the player—but those guys make it a point to let us know that they are concerned about us too. Just that little stuff and that’s what they have communicated to us. They have come to some of Wendell’s games and sat down and talked with us and he told us that we’re family and all our players are family to us and I actually believe him. They have a nice group, the families follow that team and there are a lot of families at their games because they participate and I always think that’s cool. I also told him that and I told him that you have a friend in John Petty who is going to be playing there, so that would be kinda cool, but I don’t know if that’s enough to get him away from CP3 considering Chris Paul has called him several time. We All Can Go has a young man from right here in Atlanta, a 7 footer—he goes to Kings Ridge a little private school here in town.

Is there a time frame for deciding on which AAU program he’s playing with this spring and summer?

I told Wendell that I would love for him to go ahead and decide when he gets home from Spring Break, but I don’t know, the only issue thing he has to work through is I really think he likes CP3 the most, but he’s not sure about who the rest of his teammates will be. They didn’t have a big last year in their 16s, so that’s huge for Wendell.

Are you looking at his college decision the same way you are with the AAU decision in terms of bigs on the roster, is that a big part of his college decision?

Oh absolutely, there needs to be a big there because Wendell is not a 5 and he’s not going to play the 5. It doesn’t matter if they come in with him or are already there.

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