Add USC, Indiana, Purdue to D.J. Carton's list of suitors; Iowa keeping in regular contact
CEDAR RAPIDS, Ia. — Two games into Bettendorf’s basketball season, one thing is clear: Iowa 2019 point guard target D.J. Carton has improved tremendously from his sophomore to junior year.
He’s filling out his 6-foot-2 frame with bigger arms and shoulders. He’s a better 3-point shooter, better ball-handler, better passer, better defender, better finisher. He showed that Thursday night, when he led everyone with 24 points and five assists in a 55-33 win at Cedar Rapids Washington.
Minnesota assistant coach Ed Conroy and Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft were there to see it all.
They’re just two of the many assistant coaches who will travel to watch Carton in the coming months.
The cerebral lefty’s recruitment exploded this summer, when one offer from IUPUI swelled to 12 from the Big Ten, Big East, Big 12 and the SEC. He surged from an unknown, unrated prospect to a four-star, top-70 must-have in the Midwest.
Now, his list of suitors — and the competition for Iowa — simply keeps growing. Carton told HawkCentral.com that USC, Purdue and Indiana have recently started to express interest. Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue and Indiana haven’t offered Carton yet, but he said they’ve told him they’d be glad to offer if he visits their campus.
Carton said he doesn't have any visits planned. He’s focusing primarily on his junior season with Bettendorf. College coaches are respecting that decision, he said, and giving him some more space than they did in the summer.
"Some kids need that — they like the attention," Bettendorf head coach Curtis Clark said. "That wasn’t so much for D.J. Like, 'If you call me six times a day, it doesn't mean I want to go to your school more.'
"He understands the importance of being a son, being a friend, being a kid."
But, of course, there’s still regular contact. So, what are the Hawkeyes doing to remain in contention for the Carton sweepstakes?
"Iowa’s reaching out to me every three days, two days," Carton said. "(Assistant) coach (Andrew) Francis, I talk to him a lot. Coach Fran McCaffery, I talked to him on the phone a couple days ago. I speak with them on the phone a lot.
"I’ve been down there for a visit two or three times, so every time I’ve gone down there it was fun. I’ve gotten to hang out with (Hawkeye signee) Joe Wieskamp, which was fun. He’s become a really good friend of mine."
The Hawkeyes have another recruiter with boots on the ground: Iowa City West's Patrick McCaffery, Iowa’s first 2019 recruit and a top-30 player in the country.
"Every time we talk basketball, he’s always got to mention the Hawkeyes in there," Carton laughed. "But me and Pat go way back. We’ve been playing together since we were in third grade. He’s just a really good player. One of the best players in the country, actually. So me and him are becoming closer again."
Don’t expect much news from Carton this season, other than additional offers. He doesn’t intend to commit or narrow down his choices soon. He said he wants to be deliberate with his recruiting process and plans to pick a school around national signing day next year.
Here are some highlights from what HawkCentral.com saw Thursday night …
Carton showed off spot-on passes, with daggers that would lead his teammates to the basket in transition. But pay close attention to the opening two clips. In the first, Carton drew a triple team inside and fired a pass to his teammate’s chest for a wide-open 3-pointer. Then he did two cross-body passes in one play — one to the open corner in transition, the other while saving a ball from going out-of-bounds. Carton averaged 3.2 assists last year. We might see that number in the 4-5 range this season.
Improved 3-point shot
After shooting only 42 3-pointers last year, Carton wasn’t afraid to let them rip Thursday. His release isn’t the highest in the world. But the rotation, arc and follow-through are pretty spot-on. Carton will need the 3-ball as a 6-2 guard at the next level. Expect a larger sample size this season.
Athletic around the basket
Carton has no problem rising and finishing among the trees with his explosive vertical and 6-5 wingspan. He soared for two dunks against Washington. On one of them, he dribbled past his defender at the top of the key and drove straight to the basket for the flush.
Utilizing length on defense
That 6-5 wingspan sure comes in handy on the defensive side, too. Whether it’s tracking a layup from behind the blocking it, or intercepting a pass at the top of the key and pushing ahead for a chance at the basket, Carton combines long arms with his quick bursts of speed to form what projects as an upper-level defender in college.
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.