D.J. Carton recruiting: Elite guard shows off defense; Iowa State joins other colleges to watch Saturday
MINNETONKA, Minn. — I'll be out here at Hopkins High School just outside Minneapolis all weekend covering elite four-star point guard D.J. Carton at the 2018 NY2LA Spring Extravaganza. Expect thoughts/observations from each of the three days, plus an updated scouting report and plenty of content for next week.
You can see Friday's story here.
I've got thoughts/observations from both of Carton's Saturday games. First, a 52-31 mercy-rule win over Yanders Law:
Many of the same coaches that were here Friday night were on hand Saturday morning. Iowa's Fran McCaffery, Wisconsin's Greg Gard, Marquette's Steve Wojciechowski and Indiana associate head coach Tom Ostrom, as well as Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft, Michigan assistant Luke Yakich and Ohio State assistant Mike Schrage were all here. I didn't see anyone from Minnesota today; Richard Pitino and Ed Conroy were here yesterday.
There was one new face: Iowa State assistant coach Daniyal Robinson, who sat on the baseline — same row as McCaffery and Wojcieshowski. Robinson has taken the point on the Cyclones' recruitment of Carton, who told me after the game how Robinson and Iowa State have made an impression with their recent surge of interest.
"They've made a good push," he said. "I got to know them a lot more and I feel like our relationship has grown a lot. They're definitely showing support here."
Carton has also noticed McCaffery sitting courtside at practically every game of his this offseason.
"Me and Coach McCaffery have a really strong relationship — he's a really great guy," Carton said. "I talk to him a lot. He's always very supportive."
Carton also told me three new schools have started reaching out: Louisville, Texas and Seton Hall.
No big-time statements this morning, unlike last night when Ohio State had all four coaches in to watch Carton.
I know Robinson is sticking around to watch Carton tonight, and I'm sure many of the other coaches are, too.
Two things I've noticed so far: No presence from Missouri or Illinois at Carton's games. Cuonzo Martin was here Friday, just watching a different game. I'm hearing the Tigers are backing off. And Carton told me he's had some contact with Illinois in the past couple weeks, but it doesn't sound like the Illini are prioritizing him like Iowa, Iowa State and the rest of the schools here in Minnesota.
On the court, it was another off performance on offense from the potential five-star point guard. According to the NY2LA stats, he finished with 10 points on just two made baskets. I had him down for a trio of assists and a high-flying block, as well.
It wasn't just a simple block on an attempt under the basket. Carton sprinted full speed to meet his opponent at the apex of his fastbreak lay-up attempt and swat it away. It was arguably his most impressive play of the weekend thus far.
Carton got better one-on-one tests in this game, compared to Friday. Yanders Law has 2019 point guard Donyae McCaskill, a low- to mid-major prospect out of Vashon in St. Louis (where he's teammates with Cyclones target Mario McKinney).
McCaskill got the better of Carton once — stealing the ball in the backcourt for a dunk. Soon, Carton got McCaskill back — he was simply too quick on defense and forced a jump ball when McCaskill tried to drive on him.
But Carton didn't play directly against McCaskill too often. He routinely switched on defense. That included guarding Aaron Elliot, a 6-foot-6 big, down low. Carton gave up little ground and won the battles inside with Elliot, who weighs at least 45 more pounds than Carton.
Like Friday, Carton impressed more with his defense and floor-general abilities than his individual offense. Bunnies inside just aren't falling. Neither is his outside shot right now.
Now for Carton's second game, a 70-66 loss to Michigan Playmakers:
McCaffery was sitting on the baseline for a third straight game, chatting with former Hawkeye and new Truman State head coach Jeff Horner as Carton played. Robinson was also on hand for his second game on Saturday, as was Michigan's Yakich and Ohio State's Schrage.
If McCaffery wanted to make it clear to Carton that he is priority alpha, he achieved that by being the only head coach to be in Minneapolis both Friday and Saturday. That's not insignificant. I'm told that McCaffery is now headed to Indianapolis for Sunday's action.
I'm also told that Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm will be in Sunday to watch Carton. So the Cyclones are doing their part to show Carton he's a priority, too: Robinson saw both games Saturday, and Prohm will be here to show support Sunday.
Michigan had at least one coach here both days, as did Ohio State, Indiana, Marquette and Wisconsin. Other than Iowa, I believe only Michigan and Ohio State has had a coach here for all three of Carton's games. (That's just going based on what I've seen in the gym.)
Let's see which schools show up Sunday alongside Prohm.
As for the game, Carton balled out. He finished with 17 points, four assists, a pair of blocks and just consistent, high-level play on both sides of the ball. He defended the snot out of Michigan Playmakers' shifty, quick guards. And he scored nine points in the final two minutes to help his team claw back, driving to the bucket at will and sinking his free throws.
Part of what makes Carton so great is his selflessness and desire to get his teammates involved early and often. But on Saturday, he proved once again that he can take over a game whenever he wants to or needs to.
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_.