Memphis Grizzlies take WVU’s Carter in NBA draft

MORGANTOWN — Jevon Carter ended an eight-year drought June 21.

The former WVU standout point guard was chosen No. 32 overall by the Memphis Grizzlies — the second pick of the second round — to become the first Mountaineers player taken in the NBA draft since 2010.

Carter has local connections with Memphis.

His mother, Cynthia Johnson, lives there.

Also, Memphis’ general manager is Chris Wallace, a native of Buckhannon.

It had been since the 2010 draft that both Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks were selected in the second round, coming off the Mountaineers’ run to the Final Four.

Carter watched the draft with family and friends at Quest Multisport, a training facility in Chicago, not far from his home in Maywood, Ill. If this night was anything like his career with the Mountaineers, Carter was likely getting up shots during the draft.

“He is one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever had,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said last season. “I’ll be in my office and if I hear balls bouncing down below, it’s usually [Carter] getting up shots before anyone else even showed up.”

Carter’s focused and relentless work ethic helped him develop into one of WVU’s all-time best overall players.

He left WVU as the school’s eighth-best scorer (1,758 points) and career steals leader (330). He was also second all-time with 559 career assists.

Defense was the name of his game, though, and Carter earned the national Defensive Player of the Year honors as a junior and senior.

According to Huggins, Carter’s defense also prompted many draft prospects to cancel workouts with NBA teams once they found Carter would be there too.

“They’ve had their agents call and cancel when they found out J.C. was going to the workout,” Huggins said.

Carter was unavailable for comment. His agent, Zach Kurtin, did not return a message for comment.

The question of Carter’s draft status was always more about “when” than “if.”

He was invited to the NBA Combine last month as one of the projected top 60 prospects, where he interviewed with the Detroit Pistons, according to published reports.

In the weeks that followed, he was invited to work out for as many as 10 teams, including Memphis on June 6.

Carter’s selection is a far cry from where he began his college career.

He chose WVU, because the Mountaineers were the only school from a Power 5 conference to offer him a scholarship.

Carter was the furthest thing from a “one-and-done” prospect and had only played point guard for his AAU summer team.

In what has become one of Huggins’ best stories about Carter, the WVU coach said he first saw Carter’s potential during an AAU game.

“I had my morning cup of coffee and I sit down at this game at 8 a.m. and [Carter] is the only one out there pressing,” Huggins said. “I told our guys, ‘We have to get this guy.’ ”

Get him, the Mountaineers did. Over the course of four years, Carter guided the Mountaineers to four consecutive NCAA tournaments and three trips to the finals of the Big 12 tournament.

Huggins “brought me in one day and told me my future was at point guard,” Carter once said. “He told me I had a chance to play at the next level if I switched. There really wasn’t much to think about after hearing that.”

As a second-round pick, Carter will not have a guaranteed spot with the Grizzlies, even after he signs a contract. He will have to make the team to earn a full salary.

Second-round picks are not bound by the NBA’s salary scale for rookies, but the league minimum is $562,493 for the first year.

Carter will play with the Grizzlies during the Las Vegas summer league. Memphis’ first game is at 9 p.m. July 7, against Detroit.

Training camp begins in September.

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