D.J. Carton has released his top six. But will blue-blood programs stay away?
MINNETONKA, Minn. — Last summer, when Bettendorf point guard D.J. Carton’s recruitment was just beginning to spark, mid-major programs wanted him to commit before high-major programs got a chance to jump in.
Well … he didn't, and high-majors flocked to Carton, the top prospect in Iowa in the 2019 class.
Now, several of those high-majors want him to commit before national blue-blood programs get a chance to swoop in late in the process.
"I would say that would be pretty accurate," Bettendorf head coach Curtis Clark said.
"I feel like I’ve gotten a little bit of pressure. It’s from some good colleges, too," Carton added with a smile, "so I’m not complaining or anything."
He hasn't made a commitment yet, but Carton did take a significant step in his recruitment Thursday night: He released a top six of Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Marquette, Indiana and Xavier. Now, plans will be made to visit those schools, and Carton told the Register he might decide by late summer.
But could a national powerhouse — a consistent, top-10, perennial juggernaut — swoop in late and throw a wrench in that timeline? Some schools are urging Carton to commit for a reason: Blue-blood programs have a history of cherry-picking elite prospects late in the process.
Coaches like John Calipari, Roy Williams, Bill Self and Mike Krzyzewski won't bat an eye at a top six. If they want a player, they expect to contend.
"When guys narrow things down, it lets the big dogs know, 'OK, it’s getting a little late now. Let’s make our push,'" Rivals national analyst Corey Evans said. "If they’re ever going to come (after Carton), it’s going to be then."
It happened locally a few years ago with Tyler Ulis. Iowa was mostly competing with Michigan State for Ulis when Kentucky offered him August before his senior year. Ulis was a Wildcat by September.
Two weeks ago, Carton said it would be tough for any new school to get in the way of relationships he’s already formed with coaches.
"It’s going to take a lot for any blue-blood to come in and think that I’m just going to commit right away since they offer me," Carton said. "I’m not like that. I’ve got to build a relationship and really know the coaching staff and the teammates — it’s definitely something I’m interested in. I love winning. I want to be with a winning team that has a good future. It will all take its time. It’ll play its course and I’ll see how it goes."
Carton is certainly good enough to warrant a national powerhouse's attention. He’s a consensus four-star prospect ranked 33rd in 2019 by the 247Sports Composite and 30th by Rivals. Based on his play so far this offseason with Quad City Elite — and his invitation to the 18U National Team Trials — Carton is expected to rise in the rankings and perhaps become a five-star prospect.
"I could see him going top-20 in the class," Evans said.
Evans also brought up a good point: The 2019 class is not very deep at the point guard position. In other words, if elite programs swing and miss on their top point guard targets, Carton could very well be next on their list.
"Every year, there’s probably about 30 or 40 high-major potential guys at the guard spot; there’s probably only about 15-20 this year," Evans said. "So it makes it even more pressing — that need at the point guard spot. The fact that UNC has a guard commitment, Texas A&M has a guard commitment, Arizona State has a guard commitment, UCLA, Kansas and Utah.
"Six of those 20 guys are already committed, so it’s going to make it that much more vital that a guy like D.J. Carton is on someone’s board. I could definitely see some blue-bloods getting involved."
Rivals’ 2019 rankings currently list four point guards ahead of Carton: Cole Anthony (No. 4), Kentucky pledge Ashton Hagans (No. 7), Jalen Lecque (No. 9) and Josiah James (No. 13). The 247Sports Composite classifies Tyrese Maxey as a point guard and ranks him ahead of Carton, too.
Maxey just committed to Kentucky. That gives the Wildcats two guard recruits, although Hagans will likely reclassify to 2018. Kentucky recently offered Lecque, who is also considering reclassifying to 2018. It appears Calipari isn't done recruiting guards.
Duke is all over Anthony, son of former UNLV and NBA star Greg Anthony, but it has also offered James. The Blue Devils don't have any 2019 commitments at the moment.
North Carolina and Kansas both have point guard commitments in Jeremiah Francis (Rivals No. 56) and Markese Jacobs (Rivals No. 84), respectively, although the Tar Heels are reportedly interested in Lecque and the Jayhawks just offered Alabama point guard Kira Lewis (Rivals No. 81).
Villanova, the national champion, has a point guard commitment in Justin Moore (Rivals No. 57). But it also has offers out to Lecque and Isaiah Wong (Rivals No. 107).
The bottom line: There's still plenty of backcourt recruiting to shake out for the country's elite programs.
Before he announced his top six, Carton was still fielding interest from new schools in Louisville, Texas and Seton Hall.
Logan Wynn, Carton’s AAU program director with Quad City Elite, said his star point guard isn’t waiting on any offers right now — blue-blood or not.
"There’s no doubt that he could play there. If those schools come along, without a doubt he can play there and he can compete there," Wynn said. "But I’m not sure he’s holding out right now. I think he knows he has a great list; I think he feels comfortable with (several) schools that have really been there."
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_.