By Joe Henricksen
The Riverside-Brookfield Summer Shootout is typically one of the premier high school team events of the year. On the first day of action, Proviso East's Keith Carter really opened some eyes.
When Proviso East was given the No. 14 seed last March in the Morton Sectional, opponents were certainly overlooking the fact the under-.500 Pirates had a blossoming talent in Carter who was just beginning his ascension.
Carter, who has been the No. 3 ranked freshman prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 rankings since watching him nearly put up a triple-double in a regional victory over Lincoln Park this past March, again showed why he is in the same group as Peoria Central's Bobo Drummond and North Chicago's Aaron Simpson when it comes to conversation about the top players in the freshman class.
While his impact was minimal early in the season, including his three games at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, Carter was the catalyst in Proviso East's March surge. He scored 47 points in three regional victories, including upsets over Lincoln Park and Proviso West as the No. 14 seed. His progression was very similar to that of Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams as a freshman, though they are two different level of athletes.
Carter has been impressive with his AAU backcourt running-mate Simpson this spring while playing with Team NLP. Now he's even better, more mature and such a versatile weapon at the point guard position as he showed Saturday at Riverside-Brookfield. He helped lead the Pirates to a 3-0 record, including wins over Jay Parker and Thornton and Alex Rossi and New Trier.
He's like a high school version of Rajon Rondo, a disruptive force on both ends with long arms and playmaking ability. The 6-0 Carter pushes the basketball, has excellent vision and is very cerebral, especially for a player his age and experience. His dribble penetration is very difficult to contain, which ultimately leads to his greatest strength -- setting up teammates for easy baskets. He's capable of knocking down shots from beyond the arc.
The best part is the fact it really seems, after spending some time talking with Carter and his father, Keith Carter, Sr., the kid and those surrounding him get it. Carter, who also plays baseball, is an honor roll student throughout his first year at Proviso East. He's sharp, articulate and extremely grounded and humble. His father simply says he wants his son to "stay hungry" as a player.
"My family and my coaches are the ones that do and will keep me level-headed," says Carter, who looks to be the next great one out of the powerful Maywood school. "I have to get better in everything I do, but my main focus is trying to make my teammates better, get them involved."
Carter has heard many of the recruiting stories of other prospects -- good and bad -- but is anxious to really start the process and getting to know coaches and programs. He mentioned three schools that he's always been very fond of as just a basketball fan.
"I have always really liked Illinois, Ohio State and Kansas," says Carter, who will be taking an unofficial visit to Iowa State next week.
Right now he is at the infant stages of the recruiting process. He has heard from the likes of Illinois, Georgetown, Tennessee, Iowa State, Detroit-Mercy and a few others. But after the July evaluation period and a little more attention thrown his way, don't be surprised if Carter heads into his sophomore year on everyone's radar and the No. 1 player in the state in the Class of 2012.
R-B Shootout notes from the first day of action...
• What a day for Riverside-Brookfield standout Sean McGonagill. Despite playing without two of its top players in Ryan Jackson and Billy VanderMerkt, the Bulldogs went 3-0 in pool play. McGonagill scored 34 in a win over Tracy Abrams and Mt. Carmel, 27 in a victory over Thornridge and 18 in a win over South Elgin. McGonagill, a 6-2 point guard, is climbing the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 rankings quickly.
• Evanston's sophomore point guard Garrett Jones had a big game against Lincoln-Way East. He did whatever he wanted whenever he wanted, scoring a game-high 36 points.
• The Hoops Report has undervalued Deerfield's Duje Dukan a bit. He just fills and fits into a perfect role at the next level with his size and shooting ability. Dukan scored a game-high 30 in a win over Bloom.
• Waukegan played without star Jereme Richmond, who was playing with the Mac Irvin Fire in Milwaukee. The Bulldogs had a rough day going 0-3.
• Glenbard East, which went 3-0 with wins over Hillcrest, Waukegan and York, looks to have the makings of a potential Top 25 team in the Chicago area. Lee Skinner, a 6-6 talented 4-man, has solidified himself as a Division II prospect. He's still young for his age, has a great body, length, really runs the floor and has become much more aggressive and athletic.