The Rise of American Soccer Talent Cameron Carter-Vickers
Cameron Carter-Vickers is a rising star in U.S. Soccer. Some of the 17-year-old's athletic ability was surely inherited from his father, Howard ‘Hi-C’ Carter, a former first-round NBA draft pick.
Screenshot via FIFA TV
In the early 1980s, everyone in Louisiana knew the name Howard 'Hi-C' Carter. The starting shooting guard for the Louisiana State University Tigers, Carter had a sweet jump shot and could sink buckets from pretty much anywhere.
With Hi-C leading the team in scoring, the 1981 LSU Tigers marched all the way to the NCAA Final Four; only to be denied a spot in the National Championship by Bob Knight's legendary Indiana Hoosiers—and a certain future Hall of Famer named Isiah Thomas.
Carter's ability caught the eye of the Denver Nuggets, who took the Baton Rouge native in the first round of the 1983 NBA Draft. A long future in pro basketball was about to begin.
U.S. U-20 defender, Cameron Carter-Vickers is not nearly as flashy as his father was on the basketball court. Fortunately enough, he doesn't need to be when he leads his team into the quarterfinals of the U-20 World Cup on Sunday morning (12:30 a.m. ET) against Serbia.
Carter-Vickers is the one of U.S. soccer's newest rising stars; a 17-year-old with a freshly-minted professional contract at Premier League glamour club Tottenham Hotspur.
Those in the know in London say he's the club's best defensive academy product since the superb English center back Ledley King.
Carter-Vickers has become a defensive lynchpin for his country at U-20 World Cup currently being played in New Zealand, despite being the youngest member of the U.S. squad.
"Even though he's the youngest player on the squad, he's probably one of the most mature on the field in terms of the way he plays," U.S. U-20s coach Tab Ramos says. "We're very excited about his future and what he's going to give US soccer over many years to come."
But representing the country where his father was born means a huge amount to the young defender.Born and raised in Southend, Essex, Carter-Vickers has a shy, slightly lilting English accent; an intonation about as far removed from a Louisiana drawl as you'll find.
"England never called me up, so I haven't had the choice of playing for them or not," Carter-Vickers tells VICE Sports.
"I think I would have always played for the USA anyway. My dad has had a big influence on me, in sporting terms."
Recruited from high school in Baton Rouge, Hi-C is the fourth highest scorer in LSU history. Fair to say, no one is ever touching Pete Maravich's 3,667 points, the most ever for an NCAA Division I player.
Carter's scoring ability led to the Nuggets drafting him 15th overall in 1983—just one spot after future Hall of Famer - and Dream Team point guard Clyde Drexler.
Interestingly enough, Drexler's future team—the Portland Trail Blazers—had swapped picks with the Nuggets three years before, for long-time Denver guard T.R. Dunn.
But 'Hi-C's NBA career was short-lived. He started only five of 55 games for the Nuggets in the 1983-1984 season, before being traded the Dallas Mavericks at the start of the next season. He saw scant time on the court in Texas, prompting him to take a contract with French club Pau-Orthez.
Carter would play in France for the next eleven years—even representing their national team—before playing three seasons at Greek club Iraklis. He retired in 1998.
It was in Greece that Carter met Carter-Vickers' mother; an Englishwoman working in Thessaloniki at the time.
The young footballer believes his own athletic ability comes from both his parents; an NBA-playing father, and a mother who was a talented English netball player in her time.
Carter-Vickers says his father has been a massive help when it comes to guidance in the crazy world of professional sports.
"He always tells me to stay level-headed," the defender says.
"After that loss against Ukraine [at the World Cup], for example, he texted me and said 'just stay focused, talk about your issues and move forward and progress.'"
Carter-Vickers certainly took that advice in the U.S.'s next game, a 1-0 Round of 16 victory against Colombia in Wellington this week.
The teenager was immense in the match—the standout defender in a sterling American backline effort.
He'll need to turn in a performance of equal weight in the match against Serbia in Auckland.
Left back Kellyn Acosta has been ruled out of the match after picking up a red card against Colombia, meaning young Club Tijuana defender John Requejo will slot into the U.S. backline.
Key striker Bradford Jamieson IV, meanwhile, is seen as a 50/50 chance to play after suffering a nasty concussion in the Colombian match—though he did jog in training this morning.
The forced changes put a little extra pressure on Carter-Vickers and his U.S. teammates. But the 17-year-old is sure his side will rise to the challenge.
"I think the performance [against Colombia] shows how close we are as a team and that we are all willing to work for each other, and do what is necessary to win," he says. "We are all confident and really focused on [the quarter-final]. It will be a tough game, against Serbia. They've got some good individuals and work together as a team—similar to how we do. It will be a real battle."