UNC beat many of college basketball’s traditional powers to the punch when they offered Vernon Carey Jr. last August after a strong summer on the AAU circuit. In the days and weeks that followed, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Miami all joined the scholarship party. Now those teams will try to seal the deal with the top-rated high school player in the class of 2019.
On Monday night, Carey Jr. showed some mutual respect by naming North Carolina when he tweeted the five finalists for what will likely be one year of his college basketball services.
Listed at 6’9 and 245 pounds Carey Jr. is considered the top 2019 power forward in the country, and depending on your preferred recruiting service, one of the top two players overall. This past season he averaged 26.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks as he led the University School in Ft. Lauderdale, FL to their first state title and a 35-2 record. He was named Florida’s Mr. Basketball this past season, narrowly beating out incoming UNC freshman Nassir Little.
His strong play has continued this spring on the AAU/Shoe scene. Through the first three sessions on Nike’s 2018 EYBL circuit, he’s shooting 59 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three (though, defense is arguably non-existent at those events). An ability to score near the rim with either hand, combined with an effective outside shot, makes him a legitimate inside-outside threat. We all saw how Luke Maye filled that role in UNC’s system last year, though Maye and Carey Jr. are completely different players. If you’re looking for a more accurate comparison to a former Tar Heels, imagine a stronger version of Marvin Williams.
His commitment would signal a massive recruiting victory for the Heels, but the competition won't be easy. The general consensus is that Duke or Michigan State (where he has already taken an official visit) are the early leaders. His father played football for the home state Hurricanes. As has been the case in recent years for players of this caliber, UNC is likely facing an uphill battle.
However, the 2019 and 2020 classes will hopefully build on the momentum of the top-10 class that’s entering Chapel Hill this fall. Roy Williams has repeatedly said, in various ways, just getting recruits to visit UNC is often the great equalizer.
Once both sides agree on a date for an official visit, Carey Jr. will provide another opportunity to put that theory to the test.