Even with his quick on-ramp to college basketball, Carter Whitt didn’t feel his confidence waver. At least, for the most part.
Whitt went from a 2021 recruit for Wake Forest to a midseason enrollee for the 2020-21 season to a needed body for the Deacons. The last part came on rapidly, with Whitt playing 25 minutes of Wake Forest’s 70-62 victory Thursday against Catawba, the program’s first game in more than a month.
“I’ve been excited all week,” Whitt said. “Coming in this whole week, I didn’t think I was going to be nervous. Then this morning, I was pretty nervous. But as we got out there on the floor warming up, I felt fine.”
A rusty game for Wake Forest contained ribbons of Whitt’s promise during his 11-point, four-assist performance. He checked in for the first time with 15:30 in the first half, and the ball found him. He corraled a defensive rebound and pushed down the court before hitting Isaiah Mucius with a bounce pass for an easy layup.
He worked in some pick-and-rolls with Ody Oguama — that lob connection could be fun as they season it a bit more — and pick-and-pops with Ismael Massoud. What Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes enjoyed most from Whitt’s night is he flashed some of the defining traits that drew the coach to the player in the first place.
“He’s got patience in his passing,” Forbes said. “A lot of guards that I’ve coached in the past, right or wrong, predetermine what they’re going to do when they come off a screen, when they get in transition.”
Whitt’s plan for Wake Forest this season was to enroll early. It was going to be his choice, Forbes said Thursday and before the season, whether he would actually play. At the least, it meant getting to practice for a chunk of the season and build himself up in a year that doesn’t count against his scholarship because of the NCAA waiver.
That changed a bit this month, when the Deacons lost guard Ian DuBose indefinitely for medical reasons. Forbes said he reached out to Whitt’s father, Scott, to get his son’s thoughts on potentially playing.
“The great thing is he’s going to get all this experience and not use a year of eligibility,” Forbes said. “He’s got a great attitude about it.”
Forbes said Whitt arrived with the team on Dec. 21. He has taken part in about six practices and was thrown into the game against Division II Catawba.
He’ll get that first experience of ACC play on Sunday when Wake Forest plays at Georgia Tech.
Daivien Williamson, Wake Forest's starting point guard, served as the guide to Forbes for all his new Wake Forest teammates as program activities started. He tried to provide guidance for Whitt, too, in this two-week crash course.
“The main thing I just emphasized to him, to be a player of Forbes’ liking, is to play hard,” Williamson said. “That’s what he wants more than anything. If you make mistakes, make mistakes going 100 miles per hour, playing as hard as you can.
“Because Forbes at the end of the day, he’s going to chew you out but he’s going to put you right back in the game as long as you’re playing hard.”
Whitt, a 6-foot-4 Raleigh native who played at Leesville Road, will learn so much this season, and there will be moments where he struggles as a player that should be either finishing up or getting ready to start his final high school season.
It was a big deal to Forbes that Whitt’s debut performance mirrored what he’s done in practice. That bodes well for the former top-100 recruit who quickly became an impromptu college player.
“He should be playing in the Bojangles or Chick-fil-A or whatever fast-food high school tournament that’s going on right now,” Forbes said. “But instead he’s getting ready to play in the ACC ... He missed everything. And he came out today and I thought he played with great poise."