What do Devon Hall, Mamadi Diakite and Carson McCorkle have in common? All of them were ranked in the top 35 of their high school classes until they reclassified, then entered college not in any top 100 lists and virtually unheralded. Hall is now in the NBA and Diakite is about to sign a UDFA contract for his shot. McCorkle is entering UVA the least acclaimed member of his class, but he might not leave that way.
After his freshman year of high school in Raleigh, McCorkle transferred to Greensboro Day School, one of the best high school basketball programs in the country under legendary coach Freddy Johnson. If there were an analogue to Tony Bennett in high school, it would be Johnson. Same insistence on defense, same principles, same insistence on character, same high level teaching and player development. McCorkle reclassified back to freshman in his first year at Greensboro Day and was a backup guard on a team that played Kihei Clark’s high school in Hawaii.
By his sophomore year, Carson was considered one of the best prospects in the country thanks to a great jump shot, ample athleticism, and high intangibles. In his last two years of high school, he shot over 50% from three. He was hitting 60% when a foot condition ended his senior year in December. Carson’s scoring average wasn’t eye-popping thanks to GDS’s system of platooning players, but his efficiency was.
His recruitment by Virginia was quick. He had offers from Georgia Tech, NC State, South Carolina, Wichita State, Clemson, Florida, Wake Forest, Butler and Baylor in hand when he made an unofficial visit to Virginia after playing AAU ball with then-recent Virginia commit Kadin Shedrick. August 24, 2018, he visited; September 10, Virginia offered; and on September 21, 2018, Carson McCorkle committed to Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers.
It is impossible to watch Carson play and not think about Kyle Guy. The two players are not identical, but the comparison is unavoidable. Like Guy, Carson is a deadly three-point shooter. I will go out on a limb and say Carson might be a better shooter than Guy in that he might be more consistent. In the “Meet the Team” Zoom event Virginia Basketball put on, Carson’s freshman teammates all agreed with him that he is not far behind Sam Hauser – the consensus best shooter on the team – as a shooter. He has range, he can hit from any point on the arc, he runs and shoots off screens very well, and he can shoot off the dribble. Carson was a college-level shooter in high school. While Carson doesn’t have as quick a release as Guy’s and he doesn’t square his shoulders in the air the way Guy does, his release is quick and his stroke is compact and consistent.
Unsurprisingly for a player who played for Freddy Johnson and grew up idolizing Larry Bird, McCorkle is smart, fundamentally sound, and a sneaky, savvy competitor. He’s also more athletic than people expect, crushing stereotypes by winning a dunk contest as a freshman and coming in 4th at the Youth Olympics in 2018. He gets up and down the court and can move his feet well enough to keep guys in front of him. It will be overlooked because of his shooting, but look for Carson to be a strong all-around player.
Like Guy, Carson is a little small for a two guard in the ACC at 6-3. He comes into college with more heft than Guy, but it remains to be seen how he will be able to match up on both ends with the 6-5, 6-6 guards that populate the ACC.
Joe Harris. Kyle Guy. Carson McCorkle.
Tony Bennett has thirteen scholarship players this year. He likes to have two of them on redshirts. This year is different with the NCAA having declared it a free year, so an actual redshirt is unlikely for Carson, but of the three freshmen he is the most likely candidate for a “virtual redshirt.” Whether he shirts or not, the most reasonable expectation for Carson this season is The Next Grant Kersey. There are a lot of players ahead of him.
All of that reasonableness said, don’t count Carson out this season. At least one true freshman is going to see meaningful action. The wing situation at UVA is unsettled and none of the veterans ahead of him have laid unshakeable claim to the shooting guard role – far from it. That leaves an opening for Carson. If he comes in and scorches the nets in practice, holds his own on defense, doesn’t make a rash of mistakes, he could carve out a role similar to what Guy or Ty Jerome did as freshmen, when each played 30+ games, started a few games, averaged between 13 and 19 minutes per appearance, and had some great moments.
Like his old AAU mate Kadin Shedrick, Carson McCorkle has a bright future at UVA, but it isn’t likely to start with a big role this season. He’s a freshman on a team with several veterans ahead of him. But if the incumbents shoot the ball this year the way they did last, don’t be surprised if the skinny freshman with the pink cheeks and unruly mop of hair comes off the bench and drops in some daggers on unsuspecting foes.