If there had been any doubt, it's now officially erased.
Michael Carter-Williams solidified his place among the elite high school basketball players in the country by being named a McDonald's All-American last night when the teams were announced on ESPNU.
Carter-Williams, a Hamilton native and senior captain at St. Andrew's School in Barrington, R.I., will play for the East team against the West in a game that will be played March 30 at Chicago's United Center and televised on ESPN.
"I've always known about (the game) because I watch it every year. I know it's the top players in high school and I'm just glad to be a part of it," the 19-year-old Carter-Williams said.
"It was about a week-and-a-half ago when I found out. My principal called me out of class and almost acted like I was in trouble. He walked me to coach (Mike) Hart's office and that's when they told me I was a McDonald's All-American."
The Syracuse University-bound Carter-Williams had been a Division 1 college prospect for a couple years before taking a major leap up the individual rankings, thanks to some superb performances at high-level camps and tournaments over the past year.
Carter-Williams' selection makes him the first McDonald's All-American from a Rhode Island school and just the second ever from the North Shore area, joining an exclusive club that has only one other member in former Salem High great Rick Brunson.
There have also been 16 McDonald's All-Americans who attended Syracuse.
Brunson, who went on to have a tremendous college career at Temple University and a lengthy NBA career, was selected in 1991 and shared the game MVP award with Chris Webber. Brunson, who scored 19 points, pulled down seven rebounds and added six assists in the game, is a close family friend of Carter-Williams and had previously offered him some advice about aiming for the McDonald's All-American game as a goal.
"I was telling him I wanted to play in it and he was just saying, 'If you make it, it's a great honor. If you don't, it's not going to stop your career. You're still going to play in college, so stay positive,'" Carter-Williams said. "It was good advice."
Of course, it's advice that Carter-Williams doesn't have to worry about now.
The 6-foot-5, 175-pounder can play either guard spot and he's become a dynamite scorer. He's currently just eight points away from registering the 2,000th point of his high school career, which includes his freshman year total from Hamilton-Wenham.
"It's amazing the level that he's at right now. He is the best player we've ever had at St. Andrew's and, at this time, he doesn't have many flaws in his game," St. Andrew's coach Mike Hart said. "His body just needs to get bigger. He needs to embrace the weight room a little more, which I know he will in college. He defends, he rebounds, he passes, he understands the game, and he's a lights-out shooter."
Carter-Williams is averaging 24.2 points per game for the Saints in addition to 8.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He's shooting 51 percent from the field and 45 percent from three-point land.
If there has been a weakness in Carter-Williams' game this year it's been at the free throw line, where he's converting just 68 percent of the time.
Nevertheless, Carter-Williams has shown tremendous improvement — both on and off the court — since arriving at St. Andrew's as a sophomore.
"He came to us as a young, somewhat immature sophomore. He acted like a normal high school sophomore and through the challenges of accepting responsibility from our community and his family support, he's turned into an outstanding young man that we're all proud of," Hart said.
"If Michael continues doing what he's doing, listening to the right people — especially his family — he's going to go a long way not only in basketball, but in life. He will always be successful in anything he does. He's one of the hardest workers we've had in the program and it didn't happen overnight. He's learned how to work and he constantly wants to get better."
The transition from living at home and attending Hamilton-Wenham to living away from friends and family in Rhode Island was not easy for Carter-Williams, but it's a decision that couldn't have played out any better.
"To us, this is the highest award you can achieve in high school basketball. We're really proud of Michael because he's put a lot of time into this and it's not just basketball, but grades, sportsmanship, demeanor on the court and how he handles situations. He's matured a ton on and off the court and we're really proud of that," Carter-Williams' mother Mandy Zegarowski said.
"Any doubt we might have had (about sending him to St. Andrew's) was gone. Academically and basketball-wise he's achieved a lot of things. It's a small school; there's no hiding in the classroom. There's a lot of work and he's away from home. I don't know if I'd be able to do what he's done as a teenager. He put a lot aside."
Carter-Williams still has plenty of goals he'd like to achieve with St. Andrew's before the McDonald's Game rolls around next month, including leading the Saints to the New England Prep School Tournament. If Carter-Williams can do that, he'll be playing in his own backyard as the tournament will be held at Endicott College in Beverly next month.
With all of that still on his mind, Carter-Williams still hasn't completely processed his selection to the McDonald's Game.
"It still hasn't really hit me. As soon as I get there it will," Carter-Williams said. "I'm just going to enjoy myself, my teammates and the game. I definitely don't like to lose, so I'll play to win."