University School forward Vernon Carey, Jr. slams home two of his team-high 26 points during the Sharks 80-53 win over Panther Creek. RickCrank Photo Courtesy of John Wall Holiday Invitational
University School forward Vernon Carey, Jr. slams home two of his team-high 26 points during the Sharks 80-53 win over Panther Creek. RickCrank Photo Courtesy of John Wall Holiday Invitational

High School Sports

Vernon Carey shows Coach K why he’s the No. 1 basketball recruit in the Class of 2019

By Jonas Pope IV

jpope@heraldsun.com

December 29, 2017 10:09 AM

RALEIGH

Basketball is heading to a point where there are more and more positionless players on the floor. Big guys can handle the ball, little guards do more than just pass, and on the court there are just five players who can play.

Vernon Carey, a 6-9, 245-pound junior from the University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is usually the biggest player on the floor. But that doesn’t mean the son of former NFL offensive lineman Vernon Carey Sr. wants to stay in the paint.

Carey scored a team-high 26 points during the Sharks’ 80-53 win over Panther Creek in the T.J. Warren Bracket of the John Wall Holiday Invitational on Thursday. And even though he threw down plenty of slams, Carey showed off his 3-point touch (2-of-4), passing ability (three assists) and effectiveness from the floor (11-of-13 from the field) during his second trip to the Triangle.

Last season in the John Wall Holiday Invitational, Carey ran to the rim and got most of his tournament points from dunks. Against the Panthers, Carey’s first points came from a layup. His next six came from behind the arc, followed by consecutive rim-rattling dunks to finish with 12 first-half points.

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Carey is the No. 1-ranked player in the Class of 2019, receiving offers from Duke, North Carolina, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Miami, UCLA and Michigan State, which he lists as his top eight. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the Blue Devils’ coaching staff was at the Holiday Invitational Thursday night, and what they saw in Carey was a player who had all the tools and wasn’t afraid to use them.

“Very versatile,” University head coach Adrian Sosa said. “He’s big enough, strong enough to go down low and use his size to his advantage, but at the same time he can bring it out on the perimeter.”

In a tournament last week, Sosa used Carey as the primary ball-handler in their dribble drive offense.

“He’s a great ball-handler,” Sosa said. “His skill set is that of a wing player, but that’s credit to him because he works on it all the time. In this new age of basketball a lot of guys say it’s positionless, but we really do have a lot of guys who play multiple positions.”

Not too many back-to-the-basket centers play the game anymore, and Carey works on his entire skill set during training sessions. His goal is to not become one dimensional on the court.

“I’m just trying to expand my game,” Carey said. “Personally, I would like to improve on my defense and be more vocal and rebounding more.”

A lot of college basketball programs would love to have Carey, who says he plans on narrowing his list of potential colleges down to three at the end of the season. Duke seems to be making quite the impression. Not only was the entire coaching staff watching Carey play, but the Sharks had a chance to practice on Duke’s campus Wednesday.

Being in the Triangle for the second year in a row, Carey is seeing first-hand how seriously fans take their college basketball.

“Everybody out here loves basketball,” Carey said. “I mean, it’s the hoops state. Everybody, even if they don’t know you, they come out and support you.”

University will take on state powerhouse High Point Wesleyan Friday in the semifinals at 7 p.m.

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-6501, @JEPopeIV