By Jack Drapkin
Let’s take a look at the freshman’s big start to most likely his only season in Durham. Outside of the opener against Elon, where he placed himself in early foul trouble, he has scored in double figures each game this season. With per-game averages of 13 points, nine rebounds, two assists and three blocks, Carter has been filling up the stat sheet early on in his freshman campaign. So what has made Carter Jr., so effective early on in his career? Two words size and relentlessness.
While Carter Jr. does possess a quality basketball IQ his early success has been based on his ability to establish himself in the paint. In a situation where plays are rarely run for him, Carter Jr. and his frontcourt counterpart Marvin Bagley III have managed to score their points in a variety of manners. Some via screen and roll, others via post but Carter Jr. has scored a bunch of his points just cleaning up the offensive glass. He has a great righty jump hook, that he uses once he establishes himself in the low block. In addition, if left open behind the three-point line he is able to connect from long range though it’s still an area that needs development.
On defense, Carter has been a shot-blocking machine. With almost three blocks per game and a six-block performance against Southern, it’s safe to say Carter has been comfortable on this end of the court. He displays great timing when it comes to his shot-blocking instincts and knows when to get off his man to for the weak-side opportunity. Playing the center position in the Duke defense provides ample opportunity to contest shots at the rim. One area to note, the teams have been much smaller on average than Duke to start the season, outside of Michigan St. Let’s see if this trend continues as we move into conference play.
While Carter Jr. has gotten off to an outstanding start, there are a couple of areas of concern to keep in mind as we move further into the season. Primarily, the aforementioned foul trouble is an area young bigs tend to struggle with in addition to ball security as he has turned it over two times a game. Finally, how he responds to size will be a question mark as he had some struggles to score in the paint against the size of Michigan St.
There is no question Wendell Carter Jr. is a good player, his play in conference and overall consistency will determine if he is a great player.