Duke's Vernon Carey Jr. Wins USBWA Freshman of the Year Award

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2020

WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 25: Vernon Carey Jr. #1 of the Duke Blue Devils during the first half during their game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at LJVM Coliseum Complex on February 25, 2020 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The U.S. Basketball Writers Association announced Duke big man Vernon Carey Jr. as the 2020 Wayman Tisdale Award winner Wednesday, the second straight year a Blue Devil has bee named college basketball's top freshman.

Carey is the fourth Duke player to win the honor in the last seven years, joining Zion Williamson (2019), Jahlil Okafor (2015) and Jabari Parker (2014). He averaged 17.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, earning second-team All-American honors and winning the ACC Rookie of the Year.

Duke has become college basketball's central hub for one-and-done stars. The Blue Devils have produced a top-three selection in each of the last six years. The 2020 draft will likely end that streak—Carey is considered a late-lottery/top-20 selection—but that's more because of an evolution in NBA style than a lack of skill.

"Vernon is a combination of skill, athleticism, and power," North Carolina forward Armando Bacot told reporters. "You just have to play him early and front him. Don't let him get the ball. Don't let him get in a rhythm. Also, he likes to go left a lot, so keep him on the right side to make it a lot more difficult for him." 

Carey is a big man of a more classic mold and will have to greatly improve his jump shot to stick as an NBA starter. If Carey is able to add a jumper, he might be one of the biggest sleepers in a class that's lacking in superstar talent.

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