If Wendell Carter had a serious red flag as a Duke freshman, it was this: he periodically derailed himself emotionally.
You could see him after a dumb foul or a mistake of some sort. His face would twist up and he’d be visibly upset. When he fouled out of the Kansas game, he was clearly distressed.
That sort of thing limited him at times but like anyone else in his position, he has a lot of growing up to do. And by that we mean any teenager about to enter the NBA draft after a single year of college.
Carter had a unique situation. Clearly highly intelligent, he flirted with the idea of choosing Harvard over Duke but ultimately (we assume) concluded that as an athlete who would enter the draft after one year, Duke was a much better place to prepare.
Marvin Bagley signed with Duke fairly late and pushed Carter from being the center of attention to being, well, the center.
Not that that’s a problem for him.
Unlike a lot of young bucks, Carter has the chops to play inside. He’s much stronger than the willowy Bagley and at 264, you have to be ready for him to push back.
Bagley showed a lot of intelligence and quickness around the paint. He has outstanding footwork for a guy his size and is a surprisingly good ball handler. Like Bagley, he has the vision to pull off an unexpected pass.
But Carter doesn’t have the same level of charisma that Bagley possesses. His court personality (so far) is quieter than Bagley’s. He observes and learns although, as we said above, his emotions can sometimes cause him problems. That’s not entirely bad by the way. Put on your best Coach K impression and repeat after us:
“Wendell gets emotional because he really cares and that’s great. That’s a great quality in any organization. Now what we want is for him concentrate on the positive rather than dwell on the negative. He’s a great kid and a damned good basketball player.”
The knocks on Carter have been that he appears a bit mechanical and that he’s not hugely athletic.
However, no one has questioned his intelligence or his intelligence for the game.
Carter’s foul issues - too often self-inflicted, to be sure - limited him to 26.9 mpg - much less than Bagley’s 33.9.
However, when Bagley sat out with an injury, Carter stepped up and became a dominant big man and showed a post game that Bagley cannot replicate. He blocked shots, he got physical with opponents, he operated in the lane with high efficiency.
And like Bagley - even more so - he could step out and hit an open three. He can’t do it with regularity when he’s closely guarded yet, but he’ll get better.
Part of the reason why Carter hasn’t gotten the attention he should have is Bagley’s lean but considerable shadow. It’s just hard to get a lot of attention when your teammate is immensely charismatic.
When you get down to it though, what you want in a player, beyond talent, is substance and character. And Carter has plenty of both.
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