By Matt Jenkins
---- — Just days after losing to Michigan in an NCAA Final Four semifinal game, Syracuse University star point guard and Hamilton resident Michael Carter-Williams began looking to the future.
His future, he determined, is the National Basketball Association.
Carter-Williams announced yesterday that he will forego his final two years of eligibility at Syracuse and enter June’s NBA Draft.
“I decided after the Michigan game (a 61-56 loss), a day or two after,” Carter-Williams told The Salem News yesterday. “I was pretty upset that we lost and I wasn’t thinking about anything, but things turned around pretty quickly and I discussed with my family what’s best for me. What’s best is that I enter the draft.”
Carter-Williams, a 6-foot-6 point guard, is a pass-first playmaker with capable scoring ability.
The NBA has been a goal for Carter-Williams since he was a young boy, and he moved one step closer to achieving it with his decision to leave college after a stellar sophomore year.
“It means a lot to me. It’s a lifelong dream of mine and it’s amazing what I’ve gone through with the help of my family and teammates. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be in this position,” Carter-Williams said. “I want to give thanks to them and thanks to God for the talent I have. Now I’m just enjoying the process.”
The process is just beginning for Carter-Williams.
Now, he has to start preparing for pre-draft workouts to prove he’s worthy of a high pick — having been projected by some experts as a potential lottery pick.
“It’s about working, getting better, bigger, stronger, and getting fully prepared for whatever I have to do,” said the 21-year-old Carter-Williams, who played his freshman year of basketball at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School before heading to St. Andrew’s School in Rhode Island.
Carter-Williams had an excellent season for Syracuse while averaging 11.9 points, 7.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds, which was a direct result of all the hard work he put in to succeed at the collegiate level. He finished fifth nationally in Division 1 in assist average and fourth in steals (2.78) while starting all 40 games for the Orange.
“He’s coming off a tremendous season and we appreciate all he’s done for Syracuse basketball,” veteran head coach Jim Boeheim told the Associated Press. “We wish Michael the best of luck as he pursues a pro career.”
He never expected to be given anything, even when he got limited playing time last year. A McDonald’s All-American out of high school, Carter-Williams had to pay his dues and wait his turn as a freshman, buried on the Orange’s guard depth chart behind Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters.
He stuck it out and reaped the rewards this season. The people closest to Carter-Williams believe that attitude will help him prepare to play with the world’s best basketball players in the NBA.
“I think Michael always bought into the work and commitment and what it takes to make it to the level of play in the NBA,” said Carter-Williams’ mother, Mandy Carter-Zegarowski. “Each step along the way, he really bought into it that you have to work for it. Nothing will come easy, right up to the workouts leading to the draft. Even getting to that night, you have to put work in to get in a good situation.”
Carter-Williams’ play in the postseason only seemed to help his stock. Aside from a sub-par game against Michigan, Carter-Williams tore up the competition on both ends of the floor in the NCAA Tournament.
Syracuse almost exclusively plays a 2-3 zone, which leaves open questions about Carter-Williams’ ability to defend in the NBA. But his length (it has been reported that he has a 6-9 wingspan) is a major plus for the next level.
Most mock drafts currently have him slotted to go somewhere between picks 12-16. Of course, all of that will likely change between now and June 27.
“I think I’ll fit in good. I’m a pretty smart player and I’m able to pass the ball, which is a big thing in the game of basketball. I think it’s an underrated part of the game,” Carter-Williams said. “I think I’ll be able to bring leadership and energy and contribute to any team.”
Carter-Williams will obviously not have his choice of teams, but he is hoping for the best possible fit.
“We did as much research as we could before making this decision,” said Carter-Zegarowski. “We were fortunate through Zach (Zegarowski, Carter-Williams’ stepfather) and a lot of people the family know in the business, (so) we were trying to get a good feel of where he’d end up.
“More important than being in the top 10, hopefully he gets into a good situation with a team that’s a good fit for him. You don’t really want to get caught up in what pick you are; the bottom line is where are you 2-3 years after you’re picked.”
Carter-Williams’ future is not exclusively basketball-based, either. He is ahead of schedule to graduate as a Communications major and he fully intends to obtain his degree while he is pursuing his hoop dreams.
Carter-Zegarowski said there is an agreement in place for Carter-Williams to complete his academic requirements, although it is likely he will wait until after his rookie year. That will give him the opportunity to get acclimated to the hectic schedule of an NBA player.
Regardless of what team drafts Carter-Williams, he is currently focused on putting everything he has into living out his dream.
“I want to go to the team that’s best for me, hopefully,” Carter-Williams said. “I just want to be able to play my game and showcase my skills and be able to contribute.”