LOS ANGELES — Inside the Los Angeles Clippers practice facility, past the Joola ping pong table at the entry, Tottenham Hotspur defender Cameron Carter-Vickers gazed up at the ceiling.
He was thinking about the NBA, a league his dad, Howard Carter, once competed in. He was recalling information like a student during a test.
“I don’t really have a team,” he said. “I like LeBron [James]. I like … the guy from the Rockets, what’s his name?”
Carter-Vickers finally came up with “James Harden” and laughed out loud. He was happy to speak and shoot hoops alongside teammates. Clippers rookie Jerome Robinson was part of the event, too, an event ahead of Wednesday night’s International Champions Cup match between Tottenham and A.S. Roma.
At age 20, Carter-Vickers is one of America’s upcoming stars — like Christian Pulisic, like Timothy Weah, like Weston McKennie. And after what happened during this last World Cup qualifying cycle, Carter-Vickers is another one of those upcoming stars who has his sights set on helping America qualify for the tournament in 2022.
“The next World Cup for the U.S. is a must,” Carter-Vickers said.
Years ago, Carter-Vickers was unsure he’d rep the red, white and blue. His father, who played basketball at LSU and was selected in first round of the 1983 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets, was from the United States. But after two years in the NBA, he moved to Europe to play and met an Englishwoman.
The two gave birth to Cameron, setting the stage for an English career.
Growing up, Carter-Vickers kicked the ball better than he shot it. So he stuck with soccer, and because he had a U.S. passport, the United States men’s national team began to recruit him. In the 2015 Under-20 World Cup, Carter-Vickers suited up for the U.S. In 2016, he appeared for the senior national team.
Carter-Vickers laid in bed last October when the United States lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago, finalizing the country’s World Cup fate. At the time, he shook his head.
“It was a huge disappointment,” Carter-Vickers said. Panama’s performance in the 2018 World Cup did not help. It lost all three games in the group stage, including a 6-1 loss to England. “You’ve got to give them their respects — they made the World Cup. But I definitely feel like, with the talent the U.S. has, we should’ve made the World Cup.”
Carter-Vickers turned the page quickly because he had to. He focused on his own play throughout the 2017-18 season, spending time on loan with Sheffield United and then Ipswich Town.
But now he’s back at Tottenham and ready for another go. When the Premier League begins in less than a month, Carter-Vickers’ goal is to make Tottenham’s Starting XI. As for his goal relative to the U.S. men’s national team once qualifying begins in 2019?
To lead the U.S. back to the world’s biggest stage.
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