Could Hornets have found a future standout in former Duke ACC rookie of the year?

By Richard Walker

In most years, an ACC Rookie of the Year of the entering the NBA Draft would mean a certain upcoming lottery pick.

Since that didn’t happen for Duke’s Vernon Carey, Jr., he’s motivated to show off his skills these days – and the Charlotte Hornets could be the biggest benefactors.

The Hornets chose Carey with the No. 32 overall pick (second round) of last month’s NBA Draft.

The son of a former NFL lineman of the same name, Carey dropped more than 30 pounds after completing his only season at Duke at 270 pounds.

“I’m definitely able to get up and down and I know that’s an emphasis in this camp,” Carey said in a Saturday zoom news conference after the Hornets’ second day of training camp.

Now 6-foot-10, 237 pounds, Carey is competing with fellow rookie Nick Richards, who was chosen No. 42 overall and later acquired in a draft night trade by the Hornets, for playing time in the post for Charlotte coach James Borrego.

“They’re showing us great effort,” Borrego said of his rookies. “I like Richards’ size and length. I think he can give us some great defense. And Vern is a skilled player. He knows how to play on the interior.”

Carey said he emulates NBA players like Anthony Davis and Brook Lopez. Both of those players are known for shot-blocking as well as their ability to shoot 3-pointers.

At Duke, Carey averaged team-highs of 17.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game to help the Blue Devils to a 25-6 overall record and 15-5 second-place finish in ACC games. He also made eight of 21 3-pointers though he was the team’s most prominent offensive post scoring option.

Charlotte’s top scorer a year ago was a 2018 second-round draft pick (No. 34 overall) Devonte’ Graham; Graham averaged 18.2 points per game last season to gain attention for being the NBA’s most improved player.

“My first impression of this team is that they are a fast-paced team,” Carey said of the Hornets. “Being in shape is a big thing for me.”