On Wednesday morning, Wendell Carter will send out a tweet, and the college basketball world will learn where the five-star prospect from Pace Academy will enroll next year.
It won’t, however, be a simple “I have decided to continue my basketball and academic career at School X.” Not even close. The tweet will be a video, shot and produced by sports website Bleacher Report.
It is scheduled to go online at 9 a.m.
“It’s going to be kind of different,” Carter said Monday evening.
Carter’s mother, Kylia, gave a little bit of a teaser. The video will have a James Bond theme. Carter’s choice — he’s narrowed it to Duke, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Harvard — will be revealed at the end.
“I kind of came up with it on my own,” Carter said.
Bleacher Report has created a niche with producing videos announcing high-school prospects’ commitments, usually a short narrative starring the athlete that ends with him putting on his college’s cap.
College coaches have been pursuing Carter since no later than the summer between eighth and ninth grade, when he attended a Georgia Tech camp and then-coach Brian Gregory offered him a scholarship. It would stand to reason that the conclusion of his recruitment will have its own personal twist. Carter has proved himself an atypical basketball prodigy.
Carter’s parents enrolled him at Pace Academy (full tuition: $26,180) as a sophomore so he could avail himself of its elite college preparatory curriculum. The 35-mile commute from the family’s home in Fairburn can take up to an hour and 15 minutes — one of his parents sometimes drives so he can sleep on the way — but it’s a choice they seem quite happy to have made.
“It is outstanding,” Kylia Carter said of Pace.
Academics was a large piece of the college decision puzzle for Carter, as was one other unusual factor. As the Carters whittled down the dozens of suitors to eight in July and then four in September, they rated schools by their rankings in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, but also, among other things, by their nutrition programs.
Both Kylia and husband Wendell Sr. played college basketball — Mom at Ole Miss, Dad at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College — and remembered the struggle to cram in meals between practice, classes and other demands. When they made official visits, they grilled the nutritionist working with the basketball team and wanted to make sure that the athletic cafeteria was within close proximity to the dormitory, lest their son crisscross campus and run himself down.
“Nutrition, in fact, was a big one for us,” Kylia Carter said.
While Wendell was visiting with coaches or touring campus with players, the Carters peppered various athletic-department staff with questions about matters such as personal development and strength and conditioning, then debriefed after each session to compare and contrast.
The information sessions were hoops that coaches were willing to jump through to have a chance at Carter.
ESPN rates him its No. 3 prospect nationally, and Carter said his plan is to be a one-and-done collegian. This isn’t idle boasting — the draft website draftexpress.com already slots him fourth in its 2018 mock draft.
Carter, who is 6-foot-10, 263 pounds and has a wingspan stretching 7-foot-5, could be a generational talent. Among his many accolades, he played for the U.S. national team’s under-17 team, helping the American team to the U-17 world championship this summer in Spain and earning all-tournament team honors. (Alabama-bound guard Collin Sexton from Pebblebrook High was named tournament MVP.)
“If you compare him to Jahlil Okafor, Harry Giles, Andre Drummond, he’s right in the mix,” said Don Showalter, coach of USA Basketball’s junior-national teams. Showalter has coached all four big men. Okafor was the third pick of the 2015 NBA draft, Drummond was an All-NBA pick this past season and Giles was ESPN’s top-ranked recruit of the 2016 class.
And, yet, his interests are broad enough that he skipped an AAU tournament in April so he could perform in the Pace production of “You Can’t Take It With You.” (The school newspaper’s review gushed that “Wendell stunned the crowd with his exceptional performance.”)
It was, perhaps, from that theatre background that Carter was inspired to announce his college selection with a high-end video. Scenes were shot recently at school and around Atlanta, taking about eight hours over the course of two days. Carter had to actually shoot four different endings because at the time of the filming, he had yet to make up his mind.
Carter said he decided for sure Sunday.
“I think the relationship I had with the coaches of the school I’m going to, how they were and how good of an opportunity I had,” Carter said.
Carter gave the signed letter of intent to his mother Monday to take to the post office and send by overnight mail.
“It feels pretty good knowing what school I’ll be attending next year,” he said.
Asked about the details about how the letter got sent off, Kylia Carter had to make a confession. She had forgotten to send it out. She promised it would go out first thing Tuesday. As of Monday night, she said, the only people who knew of the decision were the Carter family and the Bleacher Report staff who made the video.
If coaches at Duke, Harvard, Georgia and Tech haven’t gotten a letter of intent or a letter of regret by Wednesday morning they know where they can find the answer: