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Highlights from D.J. Carton’s final game of the second live period in Minnesota. The Des Moines Register

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MINNETONKA, Minn. — I was out at Hopkins High School just outside Minneapolis this weekend covering elite four-star point guard D.J. Carton at the 2018 NY2LA Spring Extravaganza. In this story, you'll find my thoughts/observations from Sunday's game, as well as final thoughts for Carton's weekend, overall.

You can see Friday's story here, and Saturday's here. Also, an ear-to-ear-smiling Carton told me Sunday that he'd been invited to the USA 18U National Team Trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A great honor for a great prospect.

OK, let's get to it:

Coaches finished their "performance" with a bang on Sunday. For colleges recruiting a player like Carton, these evaluation periods are much less about evaluating than they are just being there — showing support, showing the player he matters, that he's a priority.

And there were plenty of big names here.

Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm was on hand Sunday morning after assistant coach Daniyal Robinson was here Saturday.

Iowa assistant coach Kirk Speraw sat on the baseline right next to Prohm after Fran McCaffery was here Friday and Saturday.

Indiana's Archie Miller was here to watch Carton, too; associate head coach Tom Ostrom was here Friday and Saturday.

Michigan assistant coach Luke Yakich was here for his third straight day; John Beilein joined him Friday.

Ohio State assistant coach Mike Schrage was here for his third straight day; Chris Holtmann and the rest of the Buckeyes' four-man staff were here Friday.

Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft was here for his third straight day; Greg Gard joined him Friday and Saturday.

Marquette associate head coach Brett Nelson was here; Steve Wojciechowski was on hand Friday and Saturday.

Minnesota's Richard Pitino was here; he and assistant coach Ed Conroy were on hand Friday.

In terms of the game, itself, Carton finished with 17 points and four assists in a 48-45 win. 

His 5-for-14 line isn't one to write home about. But like he did all weekend, Carton showcased elite defense and selfless floor-general skills, as well as the ability to take over a game when he wants to or needs to.

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D.J. Carton showed off his defense in the first of two games on Saturday in Minnesota. The Des Moines Register

Some final thoughts:

Although his shooting wasn't at its best this weekend, Carton proved why he's on the verge of five stars and why Team USA wants him:

  • If he chooses to, he can completely control the game and does so when necessary down the stretch. Not many players have that kind of ability to take over at will.
  • But what makes Carton stand out on offense, more so, is he recognizes when he should take over, and when he should facilitate and get his teammates involved. He usually begins the game focused on finding teammates, then he'll really start attacking the basket consistently in crunch time. He's the type of player who would be just as happy with 10 assists as he would with 20 points.
  • Before this weekend, the last time I watched Carton was in November. Since then, his athleticism has improved — particularly in his ability to change speeds.
  • And I didn't know this would be possible, but his defense has improved, too. He's simply too long and too laterally quick for most guards. He's got the leaping ability combined with good timing to be an effective shot-blocker for a guard. He communicates well. And, while undersized, he can hold his own against bigger wings if he's switched onto them, thanks to his strength and quickness. It’s just fun to watch him play defense. High intensity all the time.

Iowa and Iowa State did what they needed to do this weekend to show Carton he's a priority.

I believe McCaffery was the only head coach to watch all three of Carton's games Friday and Saturday, and Speraw was there Sunday to give Iowa a presence all three days. Prohm and Robinson combined to give the Cyclones a presence at all three of Carton's games on Saturday and Sunday, and Carton told me he has noticed and appreciated the Cyclones' recent surge in interest.

Ohio State, Michigan and Indiana did a great job, too. They had a presence at all four games Friday through Sunday. The Buckeyes opened with all four coaches there Friday (sends a strong message) and Beilein opened the weekend there, too. Indiana opened with Ostrom and closed Sunday with Miller.

Wisconsin and Marquette did what they needed to, as well, with both schools sending their head coach Friday and Saturday, plus having at least one coach there all three days.

Those first seven schools mentioned here are the main contenders right now, based on what I'm hearing, with Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana as the major players.

Minnesota isn't in the picture as much as some of the other schools at this point, but Pitino was on hand Friday and Sunday. Carton is clearly still on his radar.

I didn't see Illinois this weekend. Missouri's Cuonzo Martin was in the building Friday but he was at a different court. He could've kept an eye on Carton during his game, sure, but I'm hearing there hasn't been any contact between the two for a long time, while other schools are ramping up their recruitment.

Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

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