Wendell Carter Jr. doesn’t mind admitting that when it comes to the country’s top high school basketball players, he’s confident that he reigns supreme.
“I definitely feel like I’m the No. 1 player in the class,” said Carter, a forward at Pace Academy (Atlanta). “There’s no question about that.”
As it stands, ESPN has Carter two spots south of that mark at No. 3, which Carter takes in stride.
“That is what it is,” he said.
Still, Tuesday morning when Carter learned he’d been named Morgan Wootten Boys Basketball Player of the Year, he couldn’t help but feel justified in his assertion.
South Salem (Salem, Ore.) guard Evina Westbrook, a Tennessee signee, won on the girls side.
“This is definitely one of the top honors I’ve ever had, if not the top honor,” said Carter, a Duke signee. “To be picked as the Player of the Year with all of the great players that are in this game is big for me. It just makes me want to work even harder.”
Carter and Westbrook will be honored at a ceremony on March 28 in Chicago. The next day they’ll suit up for the McDonald’s All American Game at the United Center.
“Wendell and Evina are role models both on and off the court and exemplify what it means to be driven and committed to achieving their goals,” Wootten said. “They are leaders in their communities, in the classroom and I’m confident they’ll continue making an impact on the game.”
Past winners of the award, which recognizes outstanding character, leadership and the values they embrace in being a student-athlete in the classroom and the community, include Jahlil Okafor (2014), Jabari Parker (2013), LeBron James (2003), Maya Moore (2007) and Ivory Latta (2003).
On Thursday both players will try and cap off stellar senior seasons with state title wins; Westbrook trying to pull off the state three-peat and Carter trying to complete a back-to-back run.
“Winning this award is the perfect scenario for me,” Carter said. “I’m already a really confident player, but this will only make my confidence go up. I can’t wait to play in the state championship even more now. This is gonna make me take it up even higher.”
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