The Pavilion has been open for less than a week and it's already having an impact on the college basketball recruiting landscape. Hours after getting a commitment from four-star J.J. Smith, Andy Kennedy got word that five-star center Wendell Carter, Jr. will be visiting the new arena in Oxford for the conference clash against the Florida Gators on January 16th, according to Ben Garrett of Scout.com.
UDPATE: After publishing this story, we had a rather bizarre interaction with a Twitter account presumably run by Carter's dad:
We then asked point blank whether Carter, Jr. would be on campus this weekend and haven't received a reply.
The 2017 prospect is also interested in Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Harvard, so the chances of Ole Miss actually landing the guy aren't exactly great (particularly with the perceived animosity of his dad). But Carter's mother, Kylia Morrison, played hoops for the Rebels in the late 80s, which combined with the momentum of the new arena, gives AK a solid platform. While Kennedy was exaggerating when he said that Ole Miss has "become a basketball school overnight," The Pavilion makes it obvious that the athletic department is making historic investments in building the program. The pitch to Carter is likely very similar to what Hugh Freeze used to recruit the 2013 football class: "Get in on the ground floor and help us build something new."
And like Robert Nkemdiche's commitment three years ago, a pledge from Carter could pull in other big names. Carter has said that he and fellow five-star Gary Trent, Jr. want to go to the same school and are a potential package deal. Long odds, of course, but something to keep in mind.
Whether Carter actually ends up in Oxford is almost beside the point, though. The mere fact that a five-star croot is visiting, family ties or not, is a very promising sign that The Pavilion could precipitate a New Normal in Ole Miss hoops.
You're probably telling yourself, "Zach, it's been two games, you need to chill." Yeah, you might be right, but I'm absolutely lit right now with excitement. Not just because of the new arena, but because this is something that AK and his staff have busted their asses for and it's finally paying dividends.
Back to Carter: the 6'10, 245-pound center from Pace Academy in Atlanta is another one of these skilled big men that are becoming the norm in college hoops. Extremely athletic despite being close to 7', Carter can run the floor with guards and create his own shot off the dribble. His length gives him a defensive presence as well, allowing him to rotate off his man and erase potential baskets.
Wishful thinking, I know, but Ole Miss has people's attention now. In basketball. Say that again. It feels good.