It should come as no surprise to college basketball fans that freshmen have come to possess a significant portion of the star power in the sport. Just look at this year’s NBA draft, where the first upperclassman was not selected until Duke sophomore Luke Kennard with 12th pick. So while some returning players will undoubtedly have a major impact in 2017–18 season, it’s important to get to know the new faces who may come to occupy the spotlight.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top 25 incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. We move to the No. 6 overall recruit: Duke’s Wendell Carter.
WHAT HE MEANS FOR DUKE’S RECRUITING CLASS
While Carter might not be Duke’s top-ranked newcomer—that honor goes to point guard Trevon Duval, the No. 4 player in the class—he could very well end up being its most influential. At 6’10” and 260 pounds, Carter has the requisite size and skill to start for the Blue Devils from day one. He’s known as a serious academic, and before committing in November was also mulling offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech and even Harvard. It’s a good thing Mike Krzyzewski convinced him though: for all the talented recruits headed to Durham this year, Carter is the only non-guard or wing among them.
HOW HE FITS
Carter should step into Duke’s starting power forward position from the minute he steps on campus. Harry Giles, whose injuries limited his productivity his only season in college, is off to the NBA, making Carter the most talented big man on the roster. He’ll be asked to serve as Duke’s top interior defender, in addition to being a reliable rebounder and scorer down low.
Every starter from last year’s season-ending loss to South Carolina is gone, which for most teams would be cause for alarm—just not for Duke. Grayson Allen is back for his senior season and should be the preseason favorite for ACC Player of the Year for the second season running. Then add Carter, Duval, and a handful of other top recruits to the mix, and suddenly the outlook in Durham isn’t so gloomy after all. In fact, if all the pieces click together, this year’s squad should be better than the group that won last season's ACC Tournament.