The last thing that Michael Carter-Williams was worried about at the McDonald's All-American Game in Chicago last week was getting validation from ESPN.
The mere fact that he's ranked the 18th best high school basketball player in the nation and was among 24 players chosen for the McDonald's game spoke volumes about his ability and his three-year body of work at St. Andrew's School in Barrington, R.I., where he scored 2,260 points.
Still, after he was limited to two points in the McDonald's game, it was reassuring when the Hamilton resident received text messages from Syracuse University assistant coaches Mike Hopkins and Gerry McNamara after the McDonald's East All-Stars downed the West, 111-96, at the United Center.
"They just said 'Congratulations,' and 'Great job,'" said Carter-Williams, a 6-foot-5 guard who will likely enroll in classes at Syracuse in July before embarking on the next phase of his career.
The 19-year-old is eager to put on a Syracuse uniform and make his mark, preferably as a freshman. Everything he's doing from here on out is geared towards that goal.
The McDonald's All-American Game was a national showcase of spectacular players making spectacular plays for the ESPN audience. Carter-Williams, who won the skills competition earlier in the week, belonged with that group, but he took fewer shots (1-for-4 for two points) than just about anybody in his 14-minute stint.
No, he wasn't disappointed with the way it played out. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and Syracuse doesn't think any less of him now than it did a week ago because he managed just one basket in an all-star setting.
One for the memory bank
"It was definitely the best experience I've ever had," said Carter-Williams, who played his freshman year at Hamilton-Wenham Regional before transferring to St. Andrew's. "Playing with the best players in the country, developing a relationship with those guys and seeing that crowd (a McDonald's game record of 19,000-plus) was unbelievable.
"The day before the game, (former NBA All-Star) Alonzo Mourning spoke to us. He talked about life experiences and life after basketball and how important it is to get a degree. He said we shouldn't take basketball for granted (because it can be taken away for any number of reasons). Hearing that stuff and playing in the game made it the best overall experience for me."
Carter-Williams' lone basket of the game came on a putback in the opening half. Other than that, he missed a pair of three-point shots and what looked like a sure dunk on a clear fast break — the only shot he'd like to have back.
In a game where defense was just a casual activity, Carter-Williams was a rarity, planting himself underneath to take a hard charge, and he chipped in three assists and a steal. He had a pass-first mentality, which wasn't exactly the M.O. for the majority of the all-stars.
"I've coached in some of these all-star games and I know how they work," said St. Andrew's head coach Mike Hart, who had LeBron James at the Roundball Classic in Chicago in 2003 and also coached Austin Daye (now with the Detroit Pistons) and DeAndre Jordan (L.A. Clippers). "Basically, the substitution patterns are scripted, so it's difficult to coach and hard to get a read on some guys. You have to let the kids play.
"The true test for Mike and the other players came in the scrimmages during the week when the players get equal minutes and share the ball. I got rave reviews about Mike from the scouting services and the NBA people. Mike won the skills competition, which was huge. He's a very unselfish player. and that's the way he played in the McDonald's game. I thought he was the glue for the East team."
It was evident early in the game that the East had a couple of hot shooters. North Carolina-bound James McAdoo and Florida-bound Brad Beal each had 11 of their 17-point totals by halftime.
As the game unfolded, especially in the second half, Carter-Williams played a complementary role. He wasn't about to force shots; He adjusted to the flow of the game and contributed any way he could.
"I didn't score that much, didn't shoot a lot, but I was trying to do the other things," said Carter-Williams. "I wasn't looking for a shot every time I got the ball; I was just trying to play it like any other game — find the open person and get him the ball. Everyone knew that we can all score the ball, but there are things other than scoring.
"The (14 minutes of playing time)? To be honest, I was happy just to be a part of it. It's tough when you have 12 kids and they have to spread the minutes. It was an honor to be there."
Leaving a strong legacy
Before the game, Duke-bound Austin Rivers, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, and Kentucky recruit Anthony Davis (whose Chicago high school team lost a game to St. John's Prep back in January) said they wanted to "put on a show" for the fans. That was just fine with Carter-Williams, but his priority was an East victory.
"A lot of people talked about the West team and how stacked they were," said Carter-Williams. "Everybody was asking us about how we'd match up. At first, everyone wanted a show. But we're all competitive kids and in the second half, we're playing to win."
Next up for Carter-Williams is another marquee game: the Jordan Brand Classic on April 16 in Charlotte, where he'll be playing with and against many of the players he saw at the McDonald's Game.
He'll leave St. Andrew's as the third-highest scorer in school history. His 2,260 point total in just three seasons ranks behind two other guys who became Division 1 college players in Tony Robertson (2,443), who played at UConn; and Rakim Sanders (2,412), who played at Boston College.
Hart wouldn't mind having Carter-Williams around for another year, mainly because of his influence both on and off the court. On top of everything else, Carter-Williams has a 3.3 grade point average.
"He will end up being a captain at Syracuse; that's my prediction," said Hart. "In the three years that we had him, he achieved just about every goal that we put in front of him at the highest level in the history of our program. He one-upped our previous legends.
"He's the best all-around player on the court, in the classroom and in the community that we've ever had.
THE file on MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS
Height/Weight: 6-foot-5, 175 pounds
High school career: Guided Hamilton-Wenham to 14-4 record as a freshman in 2007-08; led St. Andrew's of Rhode Island to 25-9 record this past season and was the New England Prep School Athletic Conference Player of the Year and the state's Gatorade Player of the Year. Scored 2,260 points in three seasons for St. Andrew's.
His current ranking: No. 18 in the nation overall; No. 5 at the guard position.
College choice: Syracuse
Highly-touted players joining Carter-Williams at Syracuse: Rakeem Christmas, who played with Carter-Williams in the McDonald's All-American Game, and guard Trevor Cooney of Delaware. Together, they have been nicknamed 'The Three Amigos'.
Quotable: "I'm definitely ready for Syracuse. I've been watching them on offense and defense, just preparing myself."