It feels like DJ Carton is just starting to scratch the surface of what he's capable of.
Some teams are already starting to take notice.
Carton picked up an offer from the University of Wisconsin on Friday, joining North Dakota and IUPUI as the schools to offer the Bettendorf guard heading into his junior year.
"It’s really good," Carton said of his recruiting process at the Justin Sharp Memorial Shootout on Saturday at Rock Island High School. "I’m just having a really good time creating relationships with all the coaches, all the coaches are really good guys, they know what they’re talking about. It’s just about finding that one team that you bond strong with that will come out to be your college in the end."
Carton wasn't with the Bulldogs on Friday, instead at a Wisconsin camp at the Kohl Center in Madison. He made enough of an impression there and with the Quad-City Elite to earn an offer.
"They’ve been watching me all AAU season and they know I’m athletic and explosive and they like my game," Carton said. "Really, they were focusing on the intangibles, off the court and my characteristics so mainly that’s what I focused on, just trying to be me and playing my ball. They were pretty impressed with how I stayed positive with all the hardships throughout the game."
Carton led the Bulldogs last year with 10.5 points per game despite missing some time with an injury. Bettendorf had seven players average at least six points per game last year and expects to maintain a balanced attack this season.
But with the Bulldogs graduating 10 seniors from last year's state tournament team, a lot more pressure is going to fall on Carton's shoulders this winter, a role his head coach thinks he can handle.
"I think DJ makes it easy, to be honest," Bettendorf coach Curtis Clark said. "He’s a good teammate, the guys like him and he shares the basketball when he should. He doesn’t hog the ball or take bad shots. The other guys are doing well around him. I think they know it’s an opportunity to play with a player as good as DJ is and I think they also understand he makes the game easier for them."
The Bulldogs reached the quarterfinals at the Sharp Shootout before falling to Pleasant Valley 45-35 but Carton showed his growth in that game, making smart decisions and an improved jump shot, something he's worked hard on this summer.
"Last year I didn’t really shoot as many jump shots because it didn’t really flow in our offense but this summer I’ve been working every day, working on my jump shot trying to get at least 3,000 threes up every week," he said. "I feel like that’s really improved."
That hard-working mentality is something Carton brings both on the court, but also off the court and in the weight room, and it's something that should help the Bulldogs be competitive again this season.
"The reality is, he’s hard working, he’s put a lot of time into the game and when you do that, you get results," Clark said. "I’m just really happy for him because I know how hard he’s worked, I know how humble he is. I know it’s been a lifelong dream for him and for it to come to fruition is really rewarding to watch a kid that’s worked that hard get those offers."
Bettendorf finished seventh overall at the shootout.
PV falls in final: Pleasant Valley enjoyed a strong showing at the Sharp Shootout, finishing second after falling to Cedar Falls 61-48 in the championship game.
After beating the Bulldogs in the quarterfinals, PV beat the Rock Island Red team 46-40 before falling to the Tigers. Cedar Falls senior AJ Green — who is being recruited by several schools including Iowa State and UNI — gave the Spartans a big challenge, scoring 26 points, including a stretch of 20 straight for the Tigers.
"He really made shots, I can't remember one that was a wide-open look, I think they were all contested," PV coach Steve Hillman said. "We're just trying to build confidence in guys so when you play well and win games, I think that carries over to the summer so that's important. It's not about winning in the summer but you're always happy when that happens."
There were plenty of positives in the final for PV. Senior Brian Dayman scored 23 points and pulled down several rebounds, while juniors Carter Duwa and Hunter Snyder continue to show growth, giving the Spartans cause to be excited for this season.
"We can compete with anybody. I like how our younger guys from last year are much more confident," said Dayman, who averaged 13.7 points per game last year for PV. "We just have to make sure we continue and grind and listen to what coach says because I know he can take us back to state."
Sharp scholarships: The Justin Sharp Memorial Scholarship recipients were recognized before the championship game. Rock Island's Kassidy Hainline and United Township's Brittni LaFountaine were named as recipients.
Sigel in the stands: The Rock Island Red team finished third at the shootout, beating North Scott 60-54 in the third place game, and did so with head coach Thom Sigel sitting in the stands.
It's a tactic that Sigel has employed for small stretches in the summer, but this summer he hasn't yet made his presence felt on the bench.
"They've been in some uncomfortable situations but I think they've started to really handle that, adapt to it and I hope that's something that will help us grow in to a better team," he said. "It maybe cost us a couple wins, but it's June."
The tactic is paying off for the Rocks, who had a big win to start the day over defending Iowa state champion Iowa City West before falling to PV.
Sigel noted the growth from players like JaMir Price, Randy Tucker and Justin and Jamal Randle as positive signs from his time staying uninvolved during games.
"They're starting to think on their own and if they do the wrong thing, so what? Every coach will tell you we don't always do the right thing either," Sigel said. "I'm excited about it, I think it makes them develop some maturity ... when we first started, the first huddle we had in the summer they just stood there and looked at each other but now they're getting together and guys are starting to step up and communicate."