Even in a moment of frustration, the smile never left Nai Carlisle’s face.
After six summer league mini-games at Clinton Prairie on Wednesday night, the West Lafayette point guard’s legs couldn’t quite provide enough lift for a postgame dunk. Fortunately, his father, Duane, had video evidence of a successful dunk cued up on his cell phone.
“Must be the tired legs,” Nai Carlisle said.
Listed at 6 feet and 180 pounds, Carlisle turned heads while running the point as a freshman and helping West Lafayette win a Class 3A sectional championship. This summer, he’s trying to impress another level of basketball evaluators.
Saint Louis became the first school to offer Carlisle a scholarship after he attended the Billikens’ camp earlier this month. He said Purdue,
Virginia Tech and Western Michigan are the other programs currently showing the most interest.
“The coaches liked me and I liked them, and it was a good experience,” Carlisle said of the offer from Jim Crews’ Saint Louis program. “I liked the head coach a lot. He was real truthful, and he was a good basketball coach.”
When it comes to navigating the recruiting process, Carlisle is in a better situation than most high school athletes. His father, Duane, is Purdue’s Director of Sports Performance and has an extensive background in college and professional sports. Older brother Amir is a running back at Notre Dame who previously played at Southern California.
“They’re not going to be dazzled by one offer; they’re not going to be dazzled by one coach that comes in and blows them away without checking out everything,” said West Lafayette coach Dave Wood, a former Purdue assistant under Gene Keady. “They’ve been through the situation before. They know it’s not a home visit. It’s a four or five-year commitment.”
Carlisle averaged 9.0 points and 3.3 assists while helping the Red Devils win 19 games last season. He scored a season-high 21 points against eventual Class A regional champion Central Catholic, and matched his season high of seven assists on the same night.
Carlisle’s solid frame and quickness help him attack the basket. But the 46-percent shooter attempted only 21 3-pointers in 20 games, and that’s the area where Wood feels the point guard can reach another level.
“The one skill he has to acquire — but I think a lot of people think he’s going to — is he’s got to get more consistent shooting the ball,” Wood said. “And when he does, he’s going to be impossible to guard.”
Carlisle will continue playing with West Lafayette this month before returning to AAU action with Indiana Elite in July. He said he expects to attend the Purdue Elite camp in August.
New Clinton Prairie coach Ryne Smith, a former Purdue player, said he worked out with Carlisle several times in recent years. Wednesday’s games only affirmed his high opinion.
“He’s going to be great for Coach Wood,” Smith said.