Wendell Carter Jr. Believes Orlando Magic’s Young Frontcourt Can Be “Very Special”

ORLANDO- Wendell Carter Jr.’s confidence is at an all-time high.

And for a good reason. The 6-foot-10, 270-pound Orlando Magic Big Man is coming off his best season in the NBA, where he averaged career-best points (15.0), rebounds (10.5) and assists (2.8) per game scored while shooting 52.5 percent from the ground and making more 3-points (70) in 62 games played than the rest of his league tenure combined.

However, that confidence isn’t just limited to belief in himself and what he can achieve in the upcoming season, it also permeates a strong belief that Magic can make tremendous strides in the near future.

Central to that belief is optimism about what the Magic are building on and off the court. Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley has helped create a culture of players where players celebrate each other’s success and support each other as they grow.

Recently, this tenet has manifested itself with acts like RJ Hampton volunteering to attend Summer League, and other players like Chuma Okeke, Terrence Ross and Carter regularly come through these Summer League practice sessions to offer guidance and support to their teammates .

Eager to build chemistry with his newest frontcourt colleague Paolo Banchero — who also happens to be a Duke alum — Carter stopped by not only to watch, but also with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2022 NBA draft at the to go parquet. And after their time on the court together, Carter is even more convinced that a front line of Banchero, 2021 NBA All-Rookie First Teamer Franz Wagner, and himself have the potential to be a most formidable group.

“This[group]can be very special,” Carter explained. “Even just me walking up and down with Paolo today, he is a very selfless player. He plays to win and he plays right. I think he just went to Duke, I feel like that definitely helped a lot just learning how to win. They’re winning there at Duke, so he understands what it takes and I’m here to help him get better and help him fulfill the potential that we all see in him.”

Banchero, Carter, and Wagner are all at least 6ft 10 and have a mix of scoring, playmaking, and defensive versatility that can help create matchup problems for the opponent. With the roster that surrounds them, they certainly have the potential to be a special defensive group that was a key component of every team that made the Conference Finals last season. That’s something Carter had in mind as he approached this offseason.

“For myself, being able to defend one through five defensively,” said Carter, whose team had the league’s best defensive rating from the All-Star break through March 25. “I’m getting in better shape. And built my confidence which I started to capitalize on at the end of the season. In the last thirty games, I’ve felt like I’ve definitely opened up a different side of myself. Just build on that and keep going up from there. I help my team.”

Despite the tremendous potential for the group, Carter is aware of the challenges ahead for the Magic rookie. He remembers the difficulties of his first summer league as a lottery winner and the hurricane experience that surrounded him.

“It’s tough. This transition from college to the NBA is a monster,” he explained. “So you’re used to one thing in college, learning new terminology, getting in better shape, getting stronger, going against bigger ones Being able to play boys and things like that are always a challenge. So my first time in the summer league was definitely a challenge for me, but all the competitors love things like that. Even though it was tough, I had a lot of fun.”

As previously mentioned, Carter believes Banchero’s experience at Duke will help him in his transition to the pros. After all, it’s hard to think of greater pressure than coming to college as a high-profile recruit at a historic basketball program and being expected to achieve greatness, both as a player and as a team, in a legendary coach’s high-profile finals of the season.

“The pressure of just playing for Duke is already out of this world but then (coach Mike Krzyzewski) last year I can only imagine the pressure they put on them, especially the last game they played in Cameron ( Indoor Stadium) had. ‘ Carter said. “Just the nerves and stuff. Coach K is a legend. He will always be a legend and he will always be remembered as one of basketball’s greatest coaches. Well, it was tough for him, I’m sure. It was tough for the whole team I suppose. That’s the beauty of the game. You get that pressure, but you pass the time when the lights are off and nobody’s around, so when you go out and have all the pressure on you, you’re calm and collected.”

In addition to stopping by the AdventHealth Practice Ground at the Amway Center, Carter also plans to travel to Las Vegas to support his teammates and watch a game or two of them. He’s looking forward to some early action for Magic rookies Banchero and Caleb Houstan, as well as the growth of players he’s previously courted with like Hampton, Devin Cannady, Admiral Schofield and Aleem Ford.

Along with their development, it’s going to be a big summer for all of Magic’s young core, which includes seven lottery selections under the age of 25, including Banchero, Markelle Fultz (1st overall – 2017), Jalen Suggs (5th overall – 2021). , Jonathan Isaac (sixth overall – 2017), Mo Bamba (sixth overall – 2018), Carter (seventh overall – 2018) and Wagner (eighth overall – 2021) along with other promising young plays such as Cole Anthony, Hampton, and Okke.

“As a team, our potential is through the roof,” Carter said. “With the first choice we got Paolo and I think he will help us enormously right away. With another year under their belt for all the young people on our team, they better come back. I think the biggest thing for us will be to be injury free. We’re taking care of our bodies a little bit better to make sure we’re able to play all eighty-two of these things. This gives us the best chance to be very special this year.”

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