Vernon Carey Jr.
Last year’s statline: N/A
Game Breakdown: The top-ranked recruit in the state of Florida according to ESPN, Vernon Carey Jr. displays elite athleticism on both ends of the floor. As the son of former Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Vernon Carey Sr., the talented freshman clearly has athletic bloodlines. His body control in the lane makes him an outstanding finisher at the rim, and he often crashes from the weak side defensively to reject what appears at first to be an uncontested layup. The five-star center will be a player that the Blue Devils will look to late in games for key baskets, especially if Duke is struggling with outside shooting.
Carey handled the ball an extensive amount at NSU University School, showing a knack for breaking down his defender off the dribble. The Southwest Ranches, Fla., native also brings an outside component to Durham, as he is adept at finding an open spot on the perimeter and knocking down a catch-and-shoot three. A bevy of moves to create space for midrange jumpers is another facet of Carey's offensive arsenal. He utilizes his strength and frame to get excellent position in the paint, creating a simple decision for a guard on the drive. Defensively, he has a knack for blocking shots and shows the ability to disrupt passing lanes and create transition opportunities.
Carey greatly improved his footwork in the low post this past summer. This shows his coachability and willingness to add new traits to his already-refined game. With an extensive skillset, the freshman will provide the trademark aspects of a modern center in college basketball.
Role on the Team: Carey will be the starting center throughout the season barring injury, and he will have a sizeable share of the scoring load. If he can avoid foul trouble, expect to see Carey on the floor nearly 30 minutes per game every time the Blue Devils take the court. He will be tasked with scoring from both the interior and perimeter, and if he can stretch the floor from the outside consistently, it will add a needed component to Duke's half-court offense.
Carey will also be asked to provide elite rim protection along with senior forward Javin DeLaurier. This will make it difficult for guards to drive on the Blue Devil defense if head coach Mike Krzyzewski decides to go with a taller, longer lineup. Carey's ability to come off the weak side and block shots will improve Duke’s help defense. As the season goes on, look for the freshman to provide deflections and rejections leading to fast breaks.
NBA Comparison: Carey's skillset is very similar to current Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. Both players possess elite athleticism and ball-handling capabilities for players at their size as well as an ability to excel in the open court, a key trait for centers to have in today’s era of small-ball and up-tempo pace in the NBA. While neither player likes to settle for outside shots, they both have also shown the ability to knock down open looks from three. It’s clear that Duke’s promising center has a similar skillset to the former top draft pick out of Kentucky.
Projected stats: 17.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.4 BPG
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Stay tuned to the Blue Zone for our continuing player previews. Previous players previewed include Michael Savarino, Keenan Worthington, Mike Buckmire, Justin Robinson, Jordan Goldwire, Joey Baker, Cassius Stanley, Alex O'Connell, Jack White, Javin DeLaurier, Wendell Moore Jr and Matthew Hurt.