2006 star likes Heels

Even though he's only a sophomore, 6-9, 275-pound Derrick Caracter is already one of the best players in the country. He's ranked by virtually all of the respected scouting services as one of the top two players in his class, along with Indiana center Greg Oden.

He's already been featured on ESPN's SportsCenter and he was even listed by one observer as the top player at last year's Nike Camp.

All of this for a kid who can't even drive a car yet.

And guess what? He already likes the Tar Heels.

"It's a warm place," said Caracter, from his New Jersey home. "I have friends there. With J.R. Smith coming in there next year, I think it could be the place to be. And I know Raymond (Felton) too. I've just always liked North Carolina. They're one of the schools on the top of my list."

Prompted for an early school list, the Scotch Plains (N.J.) star rattled them off his tongue without a pause.

"North Carolina, definitely. St. Johns, too, but that was when Mike Jarvis was there. I like Duke, Georgetown and Florida, too. I'd just like to go somewhere that's warm. It's cold up here in Jersey," Caracter said.

And despite the cold temperatures in New Jersey, Caracter is heating it up on the basketball courts. For a young post player -- he's simply amazing.

Despite his youth, he regularly outplays prospects that are two and three years older than himself. From his strong performances at last week's annual Slam Dunk to the Beach to the prestigious Nike Camp in Indianapolis -- Caracter has frequently been on the winning end of battles with the top players in the nation. He's gone toe-to-toe with elite high majors such as Al Jefferson and DJ White and more than held his own. Last week he posted 19 points and 12 boards against White in his team's win.

And he does it with skills, strength, savvy and consistency.

On the court, Caracter has many of the same traits as current UNC center, Sean May. Size, smarts, power and a bevy of polished post moves. From a soft baby hook to an up-and-under that'll bring back memories of former Boston Celtic, Kevin McHale. He can shoot. He can pass and he just has a presence on the floor of a sure-fire star. And despite weighing in at nearly 280 pounds -- Caracter has surprisingly quick feet and he can run the floor and finish on the break. So in a lot of ways, watching Caracter in action will remind some of what makes May such a good college player.

"Some people have said that before," said Caracter, about being compared to May. "I can see it. And I just have to keep working."

Although it's still early for this 2006 star, he wants to start taking some visits soon. And he plans to stop by the campus in Chapel Hill as one of his first stops.

"I'd like to get down there soon," Caracter said. "I've just heard so much about it, and with J.R. going there next year and all, I'm just ready to see it all. I had planned to see it before but we never did go because my friend got sick."

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