Carter Moves Up In Draft; Gets Great Spot With Memphis Grizzlies
All those long, sweat filled hours of painstaking working on his game alone in the gymnasium paid off for Jeven Carter Thursday night when the West Virginia point guard heard his name called by the Memphis Grizzlies with the second pick of the second round of the NBA draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Carter was the 32nd overall selection in the draft and is the first Mountaineer to be drafted since 2010, when Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks went back-to-back at No. 42 and 43, respectively.
The only other WVU player to be drafted this century was Joe Alexander, a first-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2008.
Amazingly, Carter was selected one pick ahead of Jalen Brunson, the guard who led Villanova to the national championship and two picks ahead of Kansas star Devonte Graham, who led Kansas to yet another Big 12 title.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, the former Duke player, summed up Carter’s playing style best.
“He is the Marvin Hagler of college basketball, the toughest kid on the floor,” Bilas said.
Carter had been a mystery man of the draft, a player who came on strong this year after last season having gone through the draft evaluation and then withdrawing to return for his final season at WVU.
Carter took his evaluation and used it to hone his game, working on his shooting and court awareness to get ready for this moment.
Much of the work, as always, was done on his own, early in the day before practice started.
NBA coaches and general managers fell in love with what they saw.
“Jevon Carter stood out all summer (in predraft workouts),” said Elton Brand, the former Duke star, now working with the Philadelphia 76ers as the GM of their G-League team. “Just because of his defense, really, really can play ‘D.’ His tenacity. And he’s made a lot of shots.”
Just 6-foot-1 and with one of the shorter wingspans of anyone in the NBA draft, the Maywood, Illinois, native drove himself to become the only Division I player ever to record more than 1,750 points with 530 rebounds, 555 assists and 330 steals in his collegiate career.
Unlike most guards in the draft, Carter rode his defense to this moment.
As a senior at WVU, Carter averaged 17.3 points a game with 6.6 assists and 3.0 steals, which led him to his second consecutive Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Award and his fourth straight All-Big 12 defensive team selection.
“My will, my will to guard,” Carter said during the pre-draft process when asked what made him so persistent. “ I never want to give anything easy up.”
It was during the NBA Combine and the pre-draft workouts that Carter distinguished himself, playing dominating defense and showing off improved offense.
His coach at WVU, Bob Huggins, believed in him from the start, having seen him as an AAU player while in high school working out early and then playing the defense he plays at a time when almost everyone else was simply showing off their snazzy offensive moves.
Before the draft, Huggins argued that Carter was a first-round talent.
“I know they say there are not a lot of guards going to be taken in the first round and I’m looking at the guys they say are going in the first round and I’m going (to myself) ‘I can’t imagine anyone who knows anything about basketball would take some of those guys before they take J.C.,” Huggins said.
“That’s providing they need a guard. Obviously, those guys are really wrong if the guys they are saying are going to teams that don’t need a guard.”
He said the proof was in the workouts.
“He’s destroyed everyone he’s faced in workouts, to the point a lot of guys won’t go when they find out he’s here,” Huggins said. “It’s to the point their agents find out he’s going to be there and they call and cancel.
“That’s a lot of respect.”
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Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace went all on on defense, snaring what he termed the two best defensive players in the draft.
“Jevon Carter, you can’t get more grit and grind than him. The best defensive backcourt player in the country. We’re very excited [about the draft] ; it couldn’t have gone any better for us.
Memphis selected Jaren Jackson in the first round and Carter in the second as it attempts to rebuild around its motto “Grit and Grind” that propelled it to the best success in franchise history.