A closer look at the much-anticipated decision facing 2019 Bettendorf point guard D.J. Carton

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D.J. Carton

By Pat Harty

Iowa City, Iowa – This time of year, I usually get asked the same question over and over about my prediction for the Iowa football team.

That question still is being asked now, but so is another question about Iowa’s chances of landing 2019 Bettendorf point guard D.J. Carton.

A day rarely goes by where I don’t either read something about Carton’s recruitment, get asked about it or told something about it.

The hype and speculation is similar to when another prize point guard named Tyler Ulis was being recruited by Iowa, but the one big difference is that Carton is from Iowa, whereas Ulis grew up near Chicago.

Ulis also received a late scholarship offer from Kentucky and ultimately signed with the traditional power where he played for two seasons before entering the NBA.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery sort of put all of his eggs in the Ulis recruiting basket, so McCaffery had to scramble to find another point guard, and he came away with junior college transfer Trey Dickerson, who stuck around for only one semester at Iowa before transferring.

It’s hard to know for sure what kind of backup plan McCaffery has in case Carton picks another school, and it’s hard to know for sure if Carton currently has a clear-cut leader.

Just in the past three or four weeks I’ve either read or been told that Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana were leading for Carton.

There have been times when I have thought that either Michigan or Ohio State was the favorite, but not Indiana.

There also have been times, including just recently, when I thought that Iowa might be the leader based on what I was hearing from reliable sources.

But now, I’m just drawing a blank.

Somebody loyal to Marquette reached out to me and warned not to overlook his school because Carton supposedly has a close relationship with Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski.

What we know for sure is that Carton has narrowed his list to six schools: Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Indiana, Xavier and Marquette.

There is a four-in-six chance that he picks a Big Ten school and a one-in-six chance that he picks Iowa, although, that could change if a blue blood program like Kentucky or Kansas offered Carton a scholarship because hasn't completely ruled out looking beyond the six schools.

One thing I feel confident in saying is that certain members of Carton’s family would be happy if he picked Iowa for reasons that include convenience and in-state loyalty.

His grandfather played basketball for Iowa in the 1950s and we spoke briefly at one of Carton’s high school games this past winter. His grandfather beamed with pride as he talked about the possibility of D.J. following in his footsteps, but his grandfather said nothing to suggest that he would apply any pressure.

The convenience factor is another thing working to Iowa’s advantage.

Carton barely lives one hour from the Iowa campus, so his relatives would benefit greatly with regard to travel time and expenses if he became a Hawkeye.

None of the other five schools can make that claim with Marquette the second closest from his home in the Quad Cities at approximately 200 miles.

So until Carton picks another school, I can’t dismiss Iowa because of its built-advantages as the only in-state school still in the hunt.

It’s easy to convince yourself that Michigan is the leader, especially now that John Beilein is no longer a candidate for the Detroit Pistons head coaching job. The Wolverines finished runner-up for the NCAA title this past season and have flirted with elite status throughout Beilein’s reign.

Beilein also has a reputation for developing guards and is widely respected throughout the coaching ranks.

He sort of reminds me of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz in how he conducts himself with class, humility and dignity.

Ohio State also has a lot to offer because for one, it’s Ohio State, and because Chris Holtmann is considered a rising star in the coaching profession.

The Buckeyes are coming off a season in which they overachieved by making the NCAA Tournament, so they are hot right now.

I heard in March and April that Ohio State had emerged as the favorite to land the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Carton, and that talk still persists today.

But so does talk about Michigan being the leader.

And don't dismiss Indiana because there is new energy and optimism surrounding that storied program with Archie Miller entering his second season as head coach.

Xavier, from everything I’ve read or been told, is the only school that hasn’t been mentioned as the favorite to land Carton at some point or as a potential dark horse.

There are lots of so-called recruiting experts and gurus who are paid to tell us what D.J. Carton is thinking almost on a daily basis.

But unless they talk to Carton on a daily basis, and let’s hope for D.J.’s sake they don’t, it’s impossible to know what he is thinking.

There is always the chance that Carton doesn’t have a leader at this stage, or he might have changed his mind recently.

Carton never has said publicly that he has a leader. He speaks highly of all six schools, making it hard to rank one over another.

With six schools still involved, it’s easy to pick the field against Iowa and that is probably what I would do at this stage. My guess right now would be Michigan over Iowa, but a month ago it was Ohio State over Michigan with Iowa a distant third.

Selfishly, I would prefer that Carton pick Iowa because it’s the school I cover and the school I grew up cheering for as a kid in Des Moines.

I’ve been asked if Jordan Bohannon’s presence at point guard might hinder Iowa’s chances to land Carton, considering they would play together during the 2019-20 season. There apparently is concern that Carton wants to be assured that he will start at point guard as a freshman, but Bohannon’s presence is keeping McCaffery from doing that.

And while that could be true, it’s easy to picture Carton and Bohannon playing together. It’s easy to picture Carton playing alongside redshirt freshman guard Connor McCaffery, who is Fran McCaffery’s son, or any of Iowa’s guards due to his athleticism, versatility and his understanding of the game.

A bigger concern to me than playing time would be that Iowa is coming off a season in which it failed to live up to expectations, finishing 14-19 overall and 4-14 in the Big Ten. Iowa is the only school among Carton’s final six that finished with a losing record this past season.

Carton has said that he would like to compete for championships, but doesn’t every recruit say that?

The hope is that last season was a fluke or an aberration for Iowa. But the problem is that Iowa won’t have a chance to prove that if Carton makes a decision late this summer or early fall.

So in answer to the question about D.J. Carton’s choice for college, I have no clue and wonder if he even knows at this point.

I wouldn’t rule out Iowa at this stage, but also wouldn’t pick Iowa at this stage.