COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—Vern Carey is a hulking 6-10, 230-pounds and has football in his DNA. His father Vernon played football for the University of Miami for four years, winning a national championship in 2001. Carey was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the NFL draft and played eight years as a 6-5, 340-pound tackle.
His son got to watch his father play in person in Dolphins Stadium at the end of his storied career. “He was a big guy,’’ Vern said.
Vernon Carey is now an assistant football coach at Miami Northwestern High so it seemed only natural Vern would follow in his father’s footsteps.
Carey gave football a try when he was in eighth grade. He played tight end and defensive end. It was a short- lived experiment. “I didn’t like it,’’ he said. “It’s too physical for me. All that hitting and stuff, nah, it’s not for me. Plus, it’s too hot outside. That’s why I decided to play basketball. I always leaned toward basketball. My dad knew that and never tried to push football on me.”
Carey first started to come into his own when he was just 14 and underwent a huge growth spurt, growing seven inches from 6-2 to 6-9. He became one of the most recruited young players in the country after his Team Florida won the Nike EBYL U15 Peach Jam last summer. He averaged 22 points and 8 rebounds as a sophomore for Davie-University School in Southwest Ranches, Fla. that won a district championship, playing on the same team with 7-1 highly skilled sophomore Balsa Koprovica from Serbia.
Carey decided to challenge himself this spring moving to the EBYL U17 league this spring and came up huge again, averaging 17.4 points and 5.8 rebounds. “The speed of the game and the toughness was a little bit of adjustment for me my first two games at that level, but I’ve picked it up,’’ he said.
Carey is one of the top five prospects in the class of 2019. His Facebook page is plastered with pictures of LeBron James, his favorite player. He is an honor roll student who has a large enough profile he was asked to write a blog on his high school career for USA Today. Among other things, we learned his favorite TV show is “Breaking Bad” and he enjoys listening to Kodak Black, Future and Drake.
Carey has heard from almost every marquee school in the state and the country — Kentucky, Louisville, Arizona, Miami, Florida, Florida State, North Carolina, Oregon, Duke and his father’s alma mater, Miami. He is already planning to visit Baylor, UCLA, Louisville and possibly Oregon. But first he would like to polish his resume here at the Olympic training center this week, trying out for one of 12 spots on USA Basketball’s U16 national team that will participate in the FIBA Americas Tournament in Argentina later this month in Argentina.
Carey is one of three players in this year’s camp who are 6-10. All have a legitimate shot to make the roster. The others are freshman Isaiah Todd, a pure power forward who could be the best prospect here; and James Wiseman, a legitimate shot blocker, rim protector from The Ensworth School in Nashville, Tenn.
Carey is more of a space-eater, whose brute strength and power to the basket has emerged as the trials progressed. He looked fatigued the first day, adjusting to the lack of oxygen in the high attitude of this state. But he got his second wind on Day 2 and has been force in the box at both ends of the floor. The team will cut down to 16 Saturday.
This will be one of Don Showalter’s taller U16 teams. It also has size and quickness at the off guard position, which will allow Showalter to use a player like 6-4 Jalen Suggs of Minnehaha Academy in St. Paul. Minnesota as a wing in a three-guard offense.
Other players who made an early impression and should be in the mix include point guard Lynn Greer III of Philadelphia Roman Catholic, 6-7 forward Eric Dixon of Abington, Pa.; High, three-point shooter Nico Mannion of Scottsdale, Ariz. Pinnacle High; guard R.J. Hampton of Little Elm, Tex. High; eight grade point guard Zion Harmon of Bowling Green, Ky. High; 6-5 wing Wendell Moore Jr. of Concord, N.C. Cox Mill; forward Scottie Barnes of Wellington, Fla. Cardinal Newman; and 6-5 Jalen Green of Fresno, Calif. San Joaquin Memorial High.
“I feel like I’m a lot more focused than I was when I was younger,’’ he said. “I know if I work hard, basketball can take me places. That’s what I keep my mind on when I’m playing. I love basketball like my dad loved football.’’