The Harder Route: Wesson flourishing at FUMA

Photo courtesy Fork Union

It’s pretty simple logic. 

If you can eliminate distractions, sometimes other things will, out of necessity, flourish. 

Carter Wesson is certainly flourishing at Fork Union. 

“We don’t have our cell phones, so all of our free time is just working in the gym and getting better,” Carter Wesson said. “We all stay here except for one day student, so we’re all around each other for eight months.”

Wesson, a 2023 Albemarle High grad, just wrapped up his postgraduate basketball season at Fork Union and that team bonding led to an impressive campaign for the Blue Devils basketball team as they won the Elite Prep League title, went 31-7 and competed at the National Prep Basketball Championship. It was a major payoff for months of hard work and, for many, revamping their personal habits and approach.  

“Our guys didn’t choose the easy route, they’ve got to put the military uniform on every day at 6 a.m. – there’s a lot of basketball, weight room and training,” said Fork Union coach Bob Williams. “They took the harder route. The attitude and the chemistry and the work ethic was incredible. To do what they did was special. It’ll pay dividends down the road, they’re going to be happy that they chose Fork Union.”


Photo courtesy Fork Union

Postgraduate basketball is a unique challenge, and Wiliams, a former collegiate head coach at Glenville State and West Virginia University Tech, has attacked it head on after taking over a storied program that was run for decades by the legendary Fletcher Arritt. Instead of recruiting and building players over years like Williams did for a long time and with a lot of success at the college level before stepping out of the college ranks during the pandemic. Postgraduate teams are, by design, fleeting. There’s no retention and players’ goals are to elevate their recruiting stock for the next level. 

“I was fortunate to land here, and this is different, you’ve got a whole new team,” Williams said. “You get them for 8.5 months, they can get stronger and I was impressed, they do get a lot better. They get ready for college basketball.”

Fork Union’s 2023-2024 edition found a way to get better while also stacking up wins. The Blue Devils knocked off several junior college teams and collegiate junior varsity squads. After being picked to finish near the bottom of the Elite Prep League according to Wesson, Fork Union went to work. Other teams had players who had higher profile college offers or were already committed to schools held in higher esteem than the players on Fork Union’s roster. That forced Wesson personally to improve but it also put a chip firmly on the Blue Devils’ collective shoulder. 

“You’re playing against great guards, so you had to adapt and get faster and figure out how to guard a faster player,” Wesson said. “It’s definitely harder competition, we played against some high major commitments, I got better because of tougher competition.”

Wesson, who was the Jefferson District player of the year and a Class 5 all-state pick for the Patriots, has taken his game to another level in several different ways. Already a known impact shooter, he brought that talent to Fork Union’s lineup immediately, shooting 43 percent from three including a 5-for-6 outing against Louisburg. 

Then he started steadily improving, learning how to defend faster players as he said and then expanding his offensive game, an improvement that he’d already shown signs of over a four-year career at Albemarle where he steadily expanded his skill set. 

“Now he’s scoring with the left and right and he’s improved so much,” Williams said. “He has adapted to that and put it in his game. His defense just kept getting better and by the end of the season.”

Wesson’s personal improvement dovetailed with Fork Union coming together as a team. Early wins against the Naval Academy junior varsity and then Louisburg Community College let Williams know he might have something special brewing with this group. 

“I was like ‘maybe we have something good here,’” Williams said. “The chemistry ended up being off the charts, we got guys that bought into what I was teaching. They’re high character people, that’s the way they were raised. We had 11 really good players.”

The Blue Devils beat archrival Hargrave in the semifinals of the Elite Prep League championship and then followed up with 67-65 victory over Mount Zion Christian to capture the title, Fork Union’s first in the recently-formed league. The Blue Devils earned a bid to the National Prep Championship as the No. 4 seed but got tripped up in the Sweet 16.

Pushing toward and achieving that collective team goal of a league title helped Fork Union reach a ton of individual goals too. The Blue Devils’ entire starting five has found their home at the next level, with Jaden Johnson headed to Old Dominion, David Burnett bound for the Naval Academy, DeSean Goode going to New Orleans, Michael Wilson headed to North Greenville and Wesson choosing Montevallo, a Division II school in the highly competitive Gulf South League. 

“I went on a visit there in mid March, didn’t know much about it,” Wesson said. “Everyone was really friendly. I had a gut feeling that’s where I was supposed to be.” 

Photo courtesy Fork Union

Taking a postgraduate year turned out to be a strong move for Wesson and the other members of Fork Union’s squad, but in what has become a fluid, unpredictable college basketball landscape, it may just be another step on the road.

“Even now, our whole starting five has committed but we still think we’re under recruited, we were beating these teams with better offers,” Wesson said. 

There appears to be some serious truth to Wesson’s analysis. The transfer portal and Name, Image, Likeness (NIL)-influenced recruiting has transformed the collegiate game in what feels like the blink of an eye. Take it from Williams, a seasoned collegiate coach. 

“They’re taking transfers over the high school guys,” Williams said. “There are guys who are Division I players, but they have to go postgrad or decide to go D-II, you’ve just got to get in and work yourself up, it’s like the minors. We talk about it a lot, that (this class) was in high school during a pandemic, now on top of that you have the transfer portal and all that. You’re going to have to be patient with your recruitment. Everyone is being recruited at a level lower than they actually are. It is what it is. You’ve got to go with the opportunity.”

Wesson and the rest of the Blue Devils definitely went out and seized the opportunity, rapidly forming a bond that led to both championship basketball, a strong team bond and attaining individual opportunities at the next level. 

That’s what seizing an opportunity and making the most of eight and a half months can do – it can change the course of your life.


Gear Up for Greatness profiles are sponsored by Fork Union Military Academy