D.J. Carton plans to trim choices soon. Where do Iowa and Iowa State stand?
MINNETONKA, Minn. — In the past 10 months, Bettendorf point guard D.J. Carton has skyrocketed from a head-turning sophomore to an Iowa celebrity with all the state’s basketball fans clamoring to find out where he’ll play college ball.
It can be stressful, Carton admits. Both for him and his parents, who help facilitate their son’s recruiting activity behind the scenes.
So the Cartons have found ways to de-stress.
Lots of times, they’ll go out to dinner together to discuss D.J.’s recruitment on their own terms, with a good meal in front of them. Or, one day last week, the Cartons put their devices away and played board games all night.
Sorry, Life and Monopoly, D.J. said.
"Trying to do family things and show it’s not always a business," he told the Register last weekend at the NY2LA Spring Extravaganza. "You’ve got to just take time to enjoy life and be a kid."
Iowa and Iowa State's coaches might want to de-stress with some board games, too. Both programs have prioritized Carton as a key target for 2019 — especially the Hawkeyes, who need a point guard in this class.
But they’ve got stiff competition for the kid who has rapidly become a Midwest must-have on the verge of five stars.
Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Marquette are going all-in on Carton. And he's picking up new interest every day, most recently from Louisville, Texas and Seton Hall.
Carton said he plans to sit down with his family and coaches to begin narrowing down his choices this week. Then, once he has a smaller set of schools to focus on, he’ll start thinking about taking visits this summer, including officials.
He said he’s already spoken with Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan about visits this summer, and he wants to visit Iowa and Iowa State, too. In conversations with the Register, people close to the recruiting process have indicated that those five schools are currently the major players, but Wisconsin and Marquette are still in the picture as well.
For most of his recruitment, Carton had said he planned to commit at some point next fall. Last weekend in Minnesota, he said that timeline is still an option, but that he’s also thinking of committing late this summer.
"My parents always say it’s that gut feeling," Carton said. "All these places have nice facilities, all the coaching staffs are nice. But it’s just that gut feeling of where you feel most comfortable going. I’m just going to have to keep going on these visits and find that in myself.
"It’s going to be tough (to trim my choices), just because I’ve built such good relationships with these coaches. All these universities are so successful and have such great legacies. It’s going to be tough."
Coaches from the seven schools mentioned above had a regular presence in Minnesota to watch Carton at the NY2LA Spring Extravaganza. All seven head coaches were there for at least one day. If we're keeping track, Iowa's Fran McCaffery was there the longest among the head coaches.
After his first game Saturday, Carton went in-depth with the Register on both the Hawkeyes and Cyclones, who, despite their competition, are in good standing with the humble star.
On Iowa, Carton said: "Me and coach McCaffery have a really strong relationship. He’s a great guy, and I talk to him a lot. He’s always very supportive. He believes in me a lot, and I love that. I feel like he’s made me a really high, top priority here, and I appreciate the support. Like I said, I feel like I have had a really strong relationship with Iowa for a long time. I know the team really well and know some of the players. I feel like I have some strong interest from them.
"Me and Fran are super close. I’m really close with that team and that coaching staff and all the recruits committed there, like Joe (Wieskamp) and Pat (McCaffery). I know that group really well, I’ve been talking to them for a long time, and I feel like my interest and my relationship is strong with them."
On Iowa State, Carton said: "They definitely have (shown a recent surge in interest). They made a good push. I had a great in-home visit with them. I got to learn a lot about them, because I haven't visited Ames. I’ve been there in the past, but it’s been a while, so I haven't been on campus. They’ve been pushing. I got to know them a lot more and I feel like our relationship has grown a lot. They’re definitely showing support here. I have a good relationship with (assistant) coach (Daniyal) Robinson and (head) coach (Steve) Prohm. I definitely like where the Cyclones are going.
"Their future is really bright — they’ve got really good prospects coming in. I feel like they’ve got a winning culture."
For colleges recruiting a prospect like Carton, these offseason evaluation periods aren’t really about evaluation — they’re about making sure a target sees you at their games. The bigger presence you have at the target’s games, the more brownie points you get, in theory.
Iowa and Iowa State did what they needed to do in that regard last weekend. McCaffery watched all of Carton’s games on Friday and Saturday, and assistant coach Kirk Speraw was on hand Sunday. Robinson watched both of Carton’s games Saturday, and Prohm watched his game Sunday, sitting next to Speraw on the baseline.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.