The Latest from Priority Sports
The Latest from Priority Sports
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - After weeks of workouts, testing and evaluations, West Virginia's Jevon Carter is about to see all of his hard work pay off when the 2018 NBA Draft commences Thursday night inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Carter's meteoric rise began at WVU four years ago as a relatively unheralded player from Maywood, Illinois, who blossomed into one of the best performers in the country by his senior year in 2018.
Each year Carter played for veteran coach Bob Huggins he got better. He went from 8.1 points per game as a freshman in 2015 to 9.5 points per game as a sophomore in 2016 to 13.5 points per game last year as a junior to 17.3 points per game last season.
His 3-point shooting also made incremental improvement, rising from 31.4 percent as a freshman to 38.9 percent as a junior to 39.3 percent this past season.
But what makes Carter such an intriguing prospect and such a valued player is his willingness to defend. Twice he was voted college basketball's best defensive player because of his ability to take away the other team's best scorer.
Ask Oklahoma's Trae Young about Carter. Or Texas Tech's Zhaire Smith or Kentucky's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. All three are expected to be among the first 20 players taken on Thursday night.
Carter probably won't go that high - most mock drafts have him going sometime early in the second round with one or two having him sneaking late into the first round - but he's going to be picked by someone.
He simply offers too much to pass up.
How many players in this year's draft are willing to play as hard as Carter does?
For that matter, how many guys in the league these days put forth the effort Carter does or are willing to make any sacrifice necessary for the benefit of the team. For their own sake or their careers, perhaps, but for the team? Some, for sure, but not as many as there used to be.
And that's what Carter did for four years at West Virginia, first coming off the bench early in his career before taking on more of a playmaking and defensive-stopper role the next two years.
Then, during his senior season he took on the responsibility of becoming the Mountaineers' No. 1 scoring option as well as guarding the other team's best scorer.
One mock draft I saw has 19 guards going ahead of Carter before he's finally taken as the 38thoverall pick in the second round. Having watched Carter play for four years, it's difficult to fathom that many guards, which includes one high school guy, better than him.
How many of those 19 players slotted ahead of Carter can say they were their team's leading scorer and also its best defender?
Collin Sexton probably. Jalen Brunson, too. I am probably missing others, but all 19?
To people who know what they're doing and consistently build winning basketball teams, that's just as important as wingspan, age, "physical traits" or his ability to play above the rim and finish at the basket, as one draft evaluator critiqued Carter.
The bird dogs who have spent most of their lives sitting in gyms watching players for a living see clearly what Carter is capable of doing. To the new-age guys who rely on analytics, complex mathematical formulas and cite obscure statistics, perhaps Carter is not their guy.
"I'm looking at some of those guys and I'm thinking 'I can't imagine anyone who knows anything about basketball would take some of those guys before they'd take J.C.,'" Huggins said earlier this month.
"He destroyed everybody he's played against in workouts to the point where a lot of guys won't go if he's there," Huggins added. "Their agents, when they find out he's going to be there they cancel. That's a lot of respect."
It only takes one team or one general manager to like Carter, and he's worked out in front of most, if not all of them.
The team looking for a seasoned, experienced, battle-tested, mature guard they know will give maximum effort every time he steps onto the floor is the team that will likely call Carter's name on Thursday night.
He's a winner and there is always room in the NBA for winners, especially to the organizations that truly understand and value winning.
It wouldn't surprise me to see J.C. sneak into the first round, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him fall deep into the second round. That's the unpredictable nature of a draft that sometimes values potential more than it does performance.
But what will surprise me is if Jevon Carter doesn't end up sticking with a team once they get him into their organization and they see how quickly he becomes ingrained into their culture.
Then, all of those things that he supposedly can't do will quickly become secondary to all of the things he can do, which are a lot.
The draft begins at 7 p.m. and will be televised nationally on ESPN.
WVU teammate Daxter Miles Jr. has participated in some private workouts and could also hook up with a team once the two-round draft concludes late Thursday night.