HOUSTON – Don’t think for one second that Vernon Carey Jr. is mentally laid back with his feet propped up, fingers interwoven behind his head, gazing off into the sunset and smiling now that he’s officially the No. 1 player in the ESPN 60; quite contrarily, Carey said now he’s “got to work harder than ever” to maintain the spot he’d always envisioned himself taking over.
“It just means that the target is bigger for me,” said Carey, who’s suiting up for USA Red 2019/2020 at adidas Nations Global. “I doesn’t make me feel like I’ve done anything. It just makes me want more. This isn’t exactly the way I wanted to be the No. 1 player anyway.”
Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) wing R.J. Barrett had originally held down the top spot in 2019, but after he decided to reclassify to 2018 earlier this week, Carey was subsequently named top dog.
“I definitely would rather have taken at some point it because of my play,” said Carey, a forward at University School (Davie, Fla.). “R.J. is a great player though. I’m just a competitor. I never want anything handed to me.”
That said, with respect to his competitive drive, Carey certainly put in the work to earn his appointment.
In his first year at the 17U level of the Nike EYBL, widely regarded as the toughest shoe circuit of the summer, Carey led Nike Team Florida averaging 17.4 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.
“It’s been a fun summer,” Carey said. “I’ve learned a lot and I feel like my game is growing so that’s always the goal. Now that I’m No. 1, it is a good feeling I won’t lie I was happy, but it really just makes me want to work so much harder. A couple of the guys here were messing with me telling me that they’re coming for me. It’s gonna be even harder to stay here so I’m just ready to work.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY