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Entering play on Friday night, Charlotte Hornets rookie Vernon Carey Jr. totaled just eight points all season long. By the 7:12 mark of the first quarter, Carey surpassed that total as the second-round pick showed out in his first career start.
Carey finished with a career-high 21 points and six rebounds during a 130-115 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on the road. He converted on 9-of-14 shot attempts from the field, including 1-of-2 from 3-point range, in 35 minutes of work.
Hornets head coach James Borrego informed Carey at shootaround on Friday morning that he’d be starting after totaling just 33 minutes in 10 appearances all season long.
Carey stayed ready for the opportunity and took advantage of it.
“This is why we drafted him,” Borrego said. “There is a knack, a feel that you can’t teach and this kid has got it. We have been eager to see it out there, we just haven’t had the opportunity. Tonight, we had that opportunity and he used it. I thought he was great. His feel around the rim, his hands and his feet. His ability to ability to rebound and block a few shots. I thought he was fantastic tonight.”
Charlotte entered the contest battling several injuries with six players missing action. The Hornets turned to Carey and his performance was likely a silver lining in the loss to the Nets. The team battled throughout the contest with Carey helping lead the way.
“I feel like I did pretty well,” Carey said. “I just took what the offense gave me and stayed aggressive and shot the ball with confidence. That was the biggest thing the coaching staff told me. For my first (start), I feel like I really did that.”
The effort by Carey will certainly force the Hornets to take a longer look at his role moving forward. His performance likely ensured he will continue to log heavy minutes in the short term and that could open the door for future opportunities over the rest of the season.
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