In one sense, Wendell Carter Jr. is the typical McDonald’s All-American. He’s a dominant and versatile basketball player with a competitive drive that never quits. He has spent the past four years tearing up the different summer and spring circuits — AAU, Nike EYBL — and earned scholarship offers from all the usual power players, before eventually signing with Duke.
And then there’s the theater. And Harvard.
Carter is a dedicated participant in the theater production at Pace Academy, where he’s also a straight-A student. And he said that isn’t about to change, even with a hectic spring schedule punctuated most prominently by an appearance at the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago.
“Sometimes I just want to branch out,” Carter told USA TODAY as part of the McDonald’s All-American Selection Tour presented by American Family Insurance. “I’m not saying basketball isn’t always fun, but it can be hectic on me. I have to find other things to calm my soul, and that’s something I’ve always looked for. I’ve found that in theater.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do in it yet, but I plan on being in the spring play at my school.”
That different, more curious and creative wiring was also behind Carter’s very serious investigation of Harvard as a potential college destination. In the end, he went with Duke for other strong reasons — “I’ve heard a lot of people say you can’t go wrong with Duke. Great academics, athletics and one of the best coaches to ever coach the game. I think it’s an opportunity to improve myself on and off the court.” — but he very well could have been the first 5-star recruit to don a Harvard uniform since, well, ever, if things had gone a bit differently.
It’s all part of what makes Carter’s journey through high school stardom and recruiting very unique, and part of what he’ll bring to a group of teammates and opponents he’s become quite familiar with across the national elite basketball circuit in recent years.
“The relationship with all the other guys is great,” Carter said. “We’re all very competitive and great friends off the court, but once you step on the court it’s a different time to go at each other.
“It sent chills through my body knowing all the different players who have played in this game. It felt amazing. … I’m a very humble and calm person. Some people think basketball players are too famous to talk to them. That’s not me. I’m very welcoming and have a warm heart.”
A warm heart and one heck of a knack for dominating the paint and the basketball whenever he gets his hands on it (which, luckily for Pace Academy, is a lot).