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Jevon Carter’s journey: From overlooked underdog to NBA contributor

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Jevon worked his way up from unknown underdog to an NBA contributor through hard work and determination.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I’d like to start by thanking backup Phoenix Suns point guard Jevon Carter and his mother Cynthia “CJ” Johnson for some of these interesting, insightful quotes to add some context to this story and his ultimate path to the NBA.

Jevon has had a positive impact in Phoenix both on and off the court and served as a key spark-plug during some of their most exciting stretches of basketball this season.


Growing Up

Jevon was born and raised in Maywood, Illinois where he attended Proviso East High School. He wasn’t all that highly recruited and had to work for every bit of what he’s earned. “Too small. Not great at any one thing. What’s his position? Not strong enough. He can’t shoot.” He’s heard it all over the years from scouts, coaches and people that may have doubted him early in his career, and he used all of that as fuel to the fire to get where he is today.

In the 2014 recruiting class, Carter was ranked as a 3-star recruit and was the 299th ranked prospect in 247 Sports College Basketball Recruiting composite rankings. His only “Power 5” offer was from West Virginia, where he committed to and went on to play four extremely productive years under Bob Huggins.

His recruitment:

West Virginia’s head coach Bob Huggins said, “He was on the furthest court that you could be on. I went over there and was trying to drink my coffee and wake up, and this guy is pressing at 8 a.m. No one else on his team is pressing, just him.”

Sacrifice

Jevon’s mom (C.J. Johnson) said she first realized he (Jevon) would make it to the NBA his sophomore year when he decided to quit playing baseball and give 100% of his energy and focus to basketball despite being scouted for professional baseball.

“It broke my heart that he quit because he loved baseball and I saw that he didn’t have to work half as hard to be so good because he was a natural born baseball player. I knew then that if he could give up something he loved so much nothing would stop him.”

There were countless grueling late nights and early mornings. Showing up to practice hours before everyone else and staying hours after. Perfecting his craft is what drove Jevon and it’s why he went from a relatively unknown recruit to one of the best college basketball guards in the past decade to now playing a role on an NBA team. If you know anything about Jevon, you know he’s not done and he hasn’t “proven” anything to himself yet. That attitude is exactly why I’d be willing to bet on this guy if I’m the Suns.


Passion

West Virginia’s head coach Bob Huggins on his work ethic, “He really does work. People say, hey this guy works hard, that usually means the guy gets to the gym about 15-20 minutes before practice, but this guy’s in there an hour and a half before practice every day.”

If you ever question his commitment and passion for the game I’d encourage you to read this powerful quote from Jevon’s mother CJ about how determined he was to make it to the next level.

“I remember his senior year in high school Chicagoland was having the coldest winter they had had in 30 years, they called it the Polar Vortex of “Chiberia”. Schools and businesses were closed because temperatures were in the negative 40’s for over 3 weeks straight and even the zoos had to take their polar bears indoors. One morning, Jevon got up at 6 a.m. to go to the school and shoot in the gym but it was locked. He called the maintenance engineer with the keys asking him to come open the gym (as he had done for years) and he said “Jevon the school is closed because of the cold weather” and Jevon replied, “the heat is still on in the gym though right”? The engineer said he got up out of his bed in the cold to go open the gym because he knew Jevon was going to the NBA.

As you can see his pure dedication to the game and all of his hard work paid off after a successful four year career at West Virginia, Jevon was drafted in 2018. He was selected with the 32nd pick in the draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. Last summer he was traded to Phoenix on July 3rd in a deal with Memphis.

2019-20 Statistical Recap

50 games played, 2 games started, 15.1 minutes per game.

40/39/84 shooting splits.

Per-36 numbers: 11.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG

The next step in Jevon’s game will be improving upon his two point field goal percent and his playmaking ability. If he can continue to improve in his ability to finish around the rim (and through contact) and get his teammates involved it will be very difficult to keep him out of the rotation given what he already brings to the table.

His defense and energy are infectious and played a major role in some of the best moments Phoenix had this season, especially during their early season success. He was Phoenix’s second best shooter from deep, shooting a robust 39.3 percent on three point attempts this season.

Off the court

C.J. Johnson on his off the court behavior, “Suns fans probably think Jevon is mean because of his seriousness on the court but he’s very compassionate and he loves to spend his free time giving back to underprivileged youth. He really does “love the kids” which is something you’ll see him post often. He doesn’t drink or do drugs so he’s not a fan of the night club scene.”

Phoenix’s culture shift started not only with the new hires in the front office and coaching staff, but also with the players they brought in and what kind of character and work ethic they had. Jevon was an instrumental part of this shift we are seeing, and even if he is one of the younger guys on the team, the way he busts his ass 24/7 in practice has to rub off on his peers. From everything I’ve heard from the locker room he has a great personality and is one of the most liked players amongst his teammates.

Impact can’t always be measured on the court, because what goes on behind the scenes in this business is almost just as vital towards team success.

Looking ahead

Carter will hit restricted free agency this summer and is someone Phoenix should look to bring back for added guard depth and energy off the bench. His value as a spark plug was apparent and I believe there’s still room to grow in his game. He improved every year he was at West Virginia, and I expect no different from him in the NBA with his tenacious work ethic.

Feel free to bet against him if you’d like. Just know he’ll be using every ounce of it as fuel to elevate his game to another level as he’s done throughout his tireless journey.