No. 1 junior Vernon Carey Jr. improves so much it's scary

Photo: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 junior Vernon Carey Jr. improves so much it's scary

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No. 1 junior Vernon Carey Jr. improves so much it's scary

MIAMI — It’s scary.

Vernon Carey Jr., the consensus No. 1 junior in the nation and the MVP of the U-16 FIBA Americas Championships, may have accomplished those feats without revving up to top gear.

Asked what he learned from his experience last summer while competing for Team USA in Argentina, Carey, a 6-10, 245-pound point forward for University School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), responded: “I learned not to take a lot of plays off. Playing for USA improved my game. It taught me effort.”

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Carey, who plays with calmness and poise, had 26 points and nine rebounds Tuesday night, helping to defeat a talented Miami Gulliver Prep team 89-74 at the third annual HoopHall Invitational at AmericanAirlines Arena.

He was dominant from the start, scoring off the opening tip, and seemed totally at ease playing on the home court of the Miami Heat.

University coach Adrian Sosa is relying on Carey even more because 7-1 center Balsa Koprivica transferred four hours north to Windermere (Lake Butler, Fla.).

“Losing Balsa hurts, and it’s changed our style,” Sosa said of Koprivica, the ninth-ranked junior in the nation. “With Balsa, we were bigger than most high school teams, and we could just pound the ball inside.

“Without Balsa, it allows Vernon more space. Vernon is not your prototypical (big man). We allow him to bring the ball up at times. We have him initiate pick-and-rolls. We’ve given Vernon the freedom to play point forward.”

Sosa said Carey has a knack for finding the ball, drawing mismatches when opposing coaches try to guard him with a center.

Carey is almost always able to take those big guys off the dribble, but he can also shoot over them from the perimeter.

Versatility – along with a 3.8 grade-point average – has made Carey so popular among college coaches. He recently tweeted out his eight finalists: Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Miami, Michigan State, North Carolina and UCLA.

But that’s pretty much all Carey has time for now when it comes to paring down his college choice.

“I will look at (my list) again after my junior season,” said Carey, who is interested in studying forensic science or banking.

It must be noted that Carey’s father, Vernon Sr., played football at Miami and went on to become an NFL offensive lineman.

Vernon Jr. said he has enjoyed watching the Miami Hurricanes play football this season – “I like the turnover chain,” he said – and praised Miami basketball players Lonnie Walker, Bruce Brown and Dewan Huell.

But Carey said he’s open to any of the eight schools on his list.

“I don’t think he will commit yet,” Sosa said, “not until at least August.”

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