"The reason why I chose Duke is Coach K, just the recruiting class they're bringing in this year, Wendell Moore and Boogie Ellis, and hopefully some guys can come with me," Carey said on SportsCenter. "They see me as a positionless player, they said I can be anywhere on the court. That worked well with me."
Carey, a 6-foot-10 center, chose the Blue Devils over Michigan State and North Carolina. Carey took official visits to all three schools, and also made trips to Miami and Kentucky.
Carey's father played football at Miami and for the Miami Dolphins, and the Hurricanes made him a priority from early in his high school career, often sending their entire coaching staff to watch him. Duke was a mainstay in his recruitment and was long considered one of the favorites, but the Blue Devils needed to make up ground on Michigan State this fall.
Carey, who attends NSU University School (Florida), is ranked No. 3 in the ESPN 100, slotting in as the No. 2 center behind overall top prospect James Wiseman. The two went head-to-head at the Nike Peach Jam in July, with Carey going for 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Playing for Nike Team Florida, Carey took his game to another level at the Peach Jam, also squaring off against five-star centers Armando Bacot and Trayce Jackson-Davis, but averaging 23.0 points and 10.4 rebounds for the week.
Carey finished the Nike EYBL campaign averaging 19.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks, attempting nearly three 3-pointers per contest at a 33.9 percent clip.
The skilled big man has also won two gold medals with USA Basketball, including the U17 World Cup last summer when Carey averaged 11.0 points and 6.9 rebounds en route to earning all-tournament honors. He was the MVP of the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
"Vernon Carey Jr. brings a unique combination of power and skill to the court," said Paul Biancardi, ESPN's national recruiting director. "What makes him special is his ability to dominate in the paint while also being effective with his face-up game. His nimble footwork and soft touch is not talked about enough at his physically imposing size. His future upside lies in conditioning."
Duke had been off to a slow start in the 2019 class, but have now moved from No. 16 to the No. 4 rated class in the country with Carey's pledge. The Blue Devils had five-star wing Moore in the fold, along with ESPN 100 combo guard Ellis, but had missed on a few other targets. Landing Carey, however, means Duke is one of five schools in the country with multiple five-star commitments in 2019.
"By committing to Duke, Carey will immediately fill the need of a low-post presence for the Blue Devils," Biancardi said. "In many ways, Carey reminds me of Wendell Carter. When you add Carey with Wendell Moore and Boogie Ellis, that is a potent scoring class for Duke."
Mike Krzyzewski and his staff remain in pursuit of top-10 big men Isaiah Stewart (No. 5) and Matthew Hurt (No. 7), and recently made the final list for reclassified guard Anthony Edwards (No. 4).