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021318-BETTENDORF-NORTH-BKB-037

Bettendorf guard D.J. Carton (13) is up to 16 Division I scholarship offers, including many schools from the Big Ten. A member of the Quad-City Elite AAU program, Carton will be heading to Dallas this weekend for a tournament to start the spring evaluation period for college coaches.

Curtis Clark can remember the weekend last June when he realized DJ Carton's recruiting would soar into another stratosphere.

The Bettendorf boys basketball program was participating in Marquette's team camp and Clark urged the Golden Eagles' staff to come watch his point guard play.

In the Bulldogs' first game, one Marquette assistant coach showed up. In the second contest, two Marquette staff members were in attendance.

By the time Bettendorf played its final four games, the entire Marquette staff — including head coach Steve Wojciechowski — had their eyes glued to the 6-foot-2 playmaker.

"In my opinion, that's when everything changed," Clark said. "Wojo was at Duke for like (15) years and he's seen the best of the best. For him to be impressed by DJ, I knew he was special."

The recruiting has not subsided one bit. In fact, it has intensified for the four-star 2019 prospect who is ranked by Rivals as the No. 7 point guard in his class and 51st overall.

Carton has 16 Division I offers, including eight from Big Ten programs in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Creighton, Iowa State and Marquette are among others to offer.

Indiana extended its offer Sunday. Carton had an in-home visit with Michigan coach John Beilein on Monday night and the Wolverines offered.

"DJ and I were talking about all this (Sunday) and he said, 'I thought I was a good player, but I can't believe how this has all changed so quickly,'" Clark said.

It isn't unusual for Carton to spend three to four hours on the phone some nights chatting with coaches.

"There are moments it has been overwhelming with calls and texts, but I feel coaches recruiting me are very respectful of my time," he said. "It is all part of the process in building a relationship."

Carton took an unofficial visit to Ohio State this past weekend.

Besides working out with several of the current players and talking with the coaches, he met football coach Urban Meyer and former Buckeye basketball great and current CBS analyst Clark Kellogg.

"Ohio State had a lot of things planned out on the visit," Carton said. "To meet Clark Kellogg was awesome because I want to go into broadcasting after my basketball career is over. His voice is so iconic.

"When I go on visits, there is usually not many things I don't like. Ohio State was one of my favorite visits so far. The campus was set up much different than I imagined, but that's why you go on these visits. You learn a lot."

Carton is not close to making a decision.

A member of the Quad-City Elite AAU program, Carton will be heading to Dallas this weekend for a tournament. It also is the start of the spring evaluation period for college coaches.

Carton has put a premium this spring on improving his outside shot.

"If I get hot, I can shoot really well but it is that consistency factor," Carton said. "I need to get that confidence and aggressiveness to let it fly, and my AAU coaches have done a good job of giving me that freedom and confidence to shoot the ball.

"When that happens, it opens things up in my game."

Xavier, Virginia, USC, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, LSU and Louisville are among the schools also showing interest but yet to offer.

"I told his family it's not over," Clark said. "He didn't get his last offer."

Clark doesn't think it would be out of reach this spring or in the July period for one of the blue bloods — Duke, Kansas, Kentucky or North Carolina — to enter the fray.

"Obviously if that were to happen, there would be some interest," Carton said. "I like to win, and those programs do a really good job of that.

"Still at the end of the day, it is a lot about relationships and it's tough to let go of a team that you've built strong relationships with."

Carton did not specify which schools but he's already crossed some off his list that didn't fit his style. Of the 16 offers, Carton said he's taken visits to all of them except IUPUI, North Dakota and Kansas State.

The first team all-Mississippi Athletic Conference and first team all-state choice averaged a school-record 23.6 points per game this past season. He plans to publicly announce his list of finalists before the summer AAU circuit.

"At that point, I'll narrow my focus and it will start to make my decision a little easier," Carton said. "Plus, instead of leading some of these teams on, they can move on to other recruits."

Come fall, Carton is expected to make his choice and sign in November.

Clark has had a front-row seat for all of it.

The family has asked the Bulldogs' coach to be heavily involved. Clark has sat in on the home visits with coaches.

"I've enjoyed the process, and I appreciate the family giving me that opportunity," Clark said. "They trust me.

"The bottom line is, DJ has one person to please and that's himself."

Carton understands that, but realizes the decision won't be a simple one. That's why he's in no rush to make a choice.

"I come home from these visits and I like the place even more than I did before," Carton said. "It makes the decision 10 times harder.

"At the end of the day, it won't be easy giving some of these programs bad news, I've got to do what's best for me, my family and my future."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.