WALTHAM — What Tommy Amaker might not know is he has an advocate on the Celtics in the Harvard basketball coach’s quest for top-5 recruit Wendell Carter Jr.
Harvard is on the final list of schools for the 6-foot-9-inch, 254-pound forward from Pace Academy in Atlanta, and Carter might be the school’s most-prized recruit ever.
Celtics rookie forward Jaylen Brown is in Carter’s circle of confidants. Brown is from Atlanta and was a top-5 recruit who opted to pass on traditional NCAA power schools and attend Cal. Brown said he is encouraging Carter to sign with Harvard, even though Carter likely will stay in college just one year.
“I talked to him about the process and talked to his family,” Brown said. “He’s from Georgia and it’s like family. He’s a good kid, smart. And I told him just to make the decision for him.”
Amaker already has amassed a highly touted recruiting class and the Crimson could be even better with the addition of Carter. Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale have been competitive in the NCAA Tournament in recent years against the traditional powers. Yale beat fifth-seeded Baylor last March before losing to Duke, and Harvard reached the tournament for four consecutive years (2012-15), beating higher-seeded New Mexico and Cincinnati in that span.
“At the end of the day, basketball is basketball; you’ve got a whole life to live. So I said Harvard, I would love to see that,” Brown said. “I would love to see somebody coming from where I’m from [and] do that. If I could do it over again, I probably would have still went to [Cal] Berkeley but I would have at least considered Harvard because that’s a great school, that’s a great brand that’s attached to him, so I want him to do what’s best for him. But selfishly, I’d like to see him go to Harvard.’’
Since taking over at Harvard, Amaker has not shied from recruiting top-rated prospects, and he is bringing in four four-star recruits this fall, led by Chris Lewis of Alpharetta, Ga., and Robert Baker Jr. of Woodstock, Ga.
Brown said he would like to see more top recruits choose traditional academic schools over national powers.
“I think it’s impactful,” he said. “I think it says you can do both [school and basketball] and start setting a trend. I did it and to see other people do it, and I think that becomes popular, that becomes cool. Education is important and I just want people to know that’s OK. You can do both. It’s not impossible.”
Obviously the lure of the power schools – North Carolina, Duke (in the running for Carter), Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville, and Syracuse — makes it difficult because those schools usually reach the Sweet 16s and Final Fours. Brown visited Kansas, UCLA, Michigan and Kentucky, and had an unofficial visit to Cal.
Brown stunned many when he committed to the Bears, but he said he takes pride in making his own decisions and taking the unconventional route. Brown is advising Carter that playing at Harvard won’t affect his draft status.
Brown was projected as a one-and-done when he entered Cal and was the third overall pick by the Celtics. Brown was Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.
“Nobody influenced my decision,” he said. “I really felt like basketball would be basketball at the end of the day. I believed in my abilities and once I got in the draft workouts, I proved them. If you’re a pro, you’re a pro. You can go anywhere. I do think going to a [power] school can help you but in my position and other people similar to me, it didn’t matter what school I went to.
“For me, I chose education first and everything worked out perfectly.”
Carter’s final four schools are Harvard, Duke, Georgia, and Georgia Tech. He told Rivals.com he will compare the other three schools with Harvard, where he said he enjoyed his visit. He is expected to make his decision in December.
“He seemed pretty grounded; he seems like he has his head on his shoulders real well,” Brown said. “I am going to reach out to him in the next week or so just to make sure he’s doing all right. It’s a thought-provoking process. You’re deciding whose hands you want to put your future in and wherever he goes, he has to know it’s not going to be perfect. There’s no situation that’s perfect.”
Brown’s message to Carter and other top recruits is that NBA dreams can be just as attainable attending a school with higher academic standards and less basketball tradition. So Amaker definitely has an ally in his recruiting of Carter.
“So you have to choose what you want for yourself and what you are willing to give up and make that decision,” Brown said. “I hope the best for him and we’ll see what he does.”