MORGANTOWN — Calling Jevon Carter “one of the finest defensive guards I’ve seen in over 30 years in the NBA,” Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace didn’t downplay the down-home giddiness attached to his team’s second-round pick.
“As a West Virginia native, I’m glad to finally draft a Mountaineer,” Wallace said. “I’ve never been able to do that.”
Wallace, who grew up in Buckhannon, appeared June 22 on MetroNews “Talkine” and “Statewide Sportsline,” one day after the Grizzlies selected Carter 32nd overall.
Memphis opted for Carter early in the second round despite the availability of Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson — who swept the Wooden, Naismith and Oscar Robertson awards. Wallace said his scouting group stuck to the game plan of ranking prospects one through 70, and Carter was their “highest-rated guy on the board. … We had him ranked higher than the pick.”
The Grizzlies, coming off a 22-60 collapse that snapped a run of seven playoff appearances, were particularly pleased to reinvigorate the grit-and-grind mentality by drafting a Tony Allen-type defender.
“I’m excited on the personal side, but his credentials stand alone. Obviously, he’s a terrific prospect,” Wallace said. “He’s not just a physical defender, he’s also a cerebral defender, and he played for a defensive master in Bob Huggins, so he’ll get it.”
The Grizzlies took Michigan State power forward Jaren Jackson at No. 4, and Wallace suggested Memphis fans would take a liking to Carter’s hustle.
“Once he starts coming up with those steals, strong-arming his way to extra possessions and diving around everywhere, I think the fans are going to love him,” Wallace said.
While Carter became the menacing face of “Press Virginia” across his four college seasons — emerging as a two-time national defensive player of the year and the school’s steals leader — scouts don’t view him as one-dimensional. Wallace cited Carter’s surge in assists and scoring as evidence of offensive development.
(From the devil’s advocate perspective, Wallace cautioned Carter about his senior-year tendency of going one-on-one too often in halfcourt situations.)
The first WVU player drafted since 2010, Carter’s climb from marginal three-star recruit could be a role model for the Mountaineers’ incoming class.
“All those guys think they’re going to do the same thing,” Huggins said. ‘We don’t recruit guys that don’t think they’re going to be pros. But we probably don’t recruit guys, either, that think they’re going to have to put in the kind of work that J.C. put in.”