UPPER MARLBORO – Donald Carey had a handful of scholarship offers to play Division I basketball next season, but as graduation neared, he was in no hurry to pick among them.
The Frederick Douglass High School guard decided he’d hit the AAU circuit again this summer and then move on to prep school at Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia in hopes of attracting more recruiting attention in the Class of 2018.
“Those coaches weren’t making me a priority,” Carey said.
Mount St. Mary’s made Carey change his mind. He committed to the Mountaineers last month after coach Jamion Christian put on a late press for his services.
Christian needed another guard after a couple of starters transferred following his team’s run to the NCAA Tournament. The coach found the right pitch to get Carey to the Emmitsburg, Md., school.
“Coach Jamion believed in me,” Carey said. “It’s just a good situation for me to come in and play right away and have an immediate effect on the team.”
Carey needed time to find the right college fit despite a sparkling resume at Douglass. He was a four-year varsity player who took over lead point guard duties as a sophomore.
The Eagles only lost 11 total games over his three seasons in the starting lineup.
Last season, Carey averaged 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds per game in helping Douglass to a 20-4 record and a spot in the Prince George’s County championship.
His highlights included three triple-doubles and a 37-point performance in a win over Montgomery County power Springbrook.
Thanks to that production and AAU exposure with D.C. Premier, Carey managed to pull scholarship offers from a host of mid-major programs, including George Mason, James Madison and Radford.
He made for an intriguing prospect as a 17-year-old senior with plenty of room to add muscle to his 6-foot-5 frame.
Douglass coach Tyrone Massenburg couldn’t figure out why more college coaches weren’t calling him about Carey.
“He does things the right way,” Massenburg said. “He stays in the gym working on his game. Basketball IQ-wise, he’s probably one of the best I’ve had at that position. He’s a kid that’s going to make your program look good and represent you the right way.”
Christian agreed. Eventually.
The Mount St. Mary’s coach had seen a lot of Carey last summer because he was heavily recruiting – and eventually got a commitment from – D.C. Premier teammate Ace Stallings.
The Mountaineers didn’t have a roster spot for another guard, though.
That changed this spring when Elijah Long (Texas) and Miles Wilson (Miami) opted to capitalize on their strong performances in the NCAA Tournament and transfer to power conference schools.
In late April, Christian turned his full attention to Carey at a AAU tournament in New York. The coach told the guard he had a chance to run the show in a system built around the backcourt and predicated it on offensive freedom.
He showed he was serious by taking the lead on Carey’s recruitment, rather than putting an assistant in charge.
“I absolutely loved his game from the first time I saw him play,” Christian said. “I loved his feel. I loved how connected he was with his teammates. You could just tell he was such a good player.”
Carey was interested enough to visit the small campus tucked in the Catoctin Mountains. He toured Knott Arena, met the team and left feeling good. Within a few days, he officially abandoned his prep school plan and pledged to the Mountaineers.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Carey said. “That’s what my parents always tell me, so I’ve just got to keep God first and believe in the process.”
With that decision, Carey had to plot a new course for summer and beyond. He was expecting to get a break in June before a busy July filled with AAU showcases and then head to Massanutten in August.
Instead, Carey reported to Mount St. Mary’s within days of walking at Douglass’ graduation. Now, he’s focused on showing Christian that he can handle big minutes with the Mountaineers right away.
“I just see it as a challenge, which is good,” Carey said. “It means I’m going to get better. I don’t want anything to be easy for me. The coaches are going to push me past my limits.”