ORLANDO - It’s quite unusual for the two best athletes in a high school’s history to be part of the same graduation class.
But that’s true for Pace Academy, a co-educational, college preparatory private day school in Atlanta’s Buckhead area.
Its 2017 graduation class featured basketball star Wendell Carter Jr. and football star Andrew Thomas. Both went on to become top 10 draft picks in their respective sports. Carter, after a season at Duke, was chosen seventh overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls. Thomas, an offensive tackle, was the fourth overall choice in the 2020 NFL Draft by the New York Giants after playing three years for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Amazingly, Carter and Thomas, who are good friends, weren’t the only standout athletes at Pace at that time. Deon Jackson, who joined Carter at Duke but on the football side, also graduated from Pace in 2017. The Indianapolis Colts signed the undrafted running back this past season.
Another Duke attendee from Pace’s 2017 graduation class was women’s volleyball star Summer Brown. A few other Pace athletes from that class went on to play a college sport.
While each other’s biggest cheerleaders, there was always talk around the school about which of them was the best athlete.
“It was always a good little competition,” Carter said. “Then, it was a hard school in terms of academics. So, I ended up winning the little scholar athlete award at the end. It was our own little bragging rights between us four or five. We had a really good group of people there that were smart and athletic.”
Pace won a state football championship in Thomas’ sophomore year, while Carter led the Knights to back-to-back state titles on the hardwood in his junior and senior seasons.
Carter has kept tabs on Thomas’ football career. He always knew he’d make it on the gridiron and is proud of what he’s achieved to this point.
“I reached out to him and congratulated him on all his success,” Carter said.
Another star athlete in Atlanta when Carter and Thomas were at Pace was Carter’s now Orlando Magic teammate Chuma Okeke, who went to nearby Westlake High School and was named Mr. Georgia Basketball in 2017, an award also taken home by several other eventual NBA players, including Jaylen Brown (2015), Derrick Favors (2009) and Al-Farouq Aminu (2008).
As youth, Carter and Okeke were AAU teammates for the Georgia Stars.