By Gianna Addario
---- — BOSTON — Mandy Carter-Zegarowksi knew her son had a chance of taking his basketball career to the next level early on in his life, having been immersed in the game at such a young age.
It wasn’t until Michael Carter-Williams’ freshman year at Syracuse University, however, that she knew that the next level could be a career in the NBA for her son.
Carter-Zegarowski watched her son play in Boston for the first time as a professional last night. The Philadelphia 76ers rookie point guard from Hamilton led his team to a 95-94 victory at the TD Garden, setting up Evan Turner’s game-winning basket as time expired.
Nearly 150 family and friends went to the Garden last night to cheer on Carter-Williams, who was drafted in the first round (11th overall) by the 76ers last June. Carter-Zegarowski had T-shirts made for the entire group in support of Carter-Williams’ homecoming.
“I’ve been traveling back and forth from home to Philadelphia, New York, and sometimes I go to Michael’s (other) road games,” said Carter-Zegarowski, who runs her own consulting and sports management company with longtime friend Tracie Tracy.
It’s been a whirlwind ride this past season for the entire family. Carter-Zegarowski also manages her son’s career, while her husband Zach Zegarowksi made the move down to Philly with his stepson to make it easier on the 22-year-old.
“What’s great about the road games is that they usually string a few together. When Michael goes on the road, Zach usually comes home and I’ll go to the away games,” said Carter-Zegarowski.
Halfway through the NBA’s 2013-14 regular season, Carter-Zegarowski has been to a dozen or so games to watch her son play for the 76ers.
During his rookie debut in October, Carter-Williams scored 22 points, dished out 12 assists, had nine steals and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the 76ers to a surprising 114-110 win over the defending-champion Miami Heat.
“That was a surreal moment, but I don’t even remember half of the night,” Carter-Zegarowski said of watching her son’s historic performance.
The lifestyle change is one that the family has embraced. They’re in full support of their son’s career and have remained by his side throughout this new journey.
Last May, Carter-Zegarowski stepped down as head coach of the Ipswich High girls basketball team after 10 years to manage her son full-time. Her daughter Masey, who spent two seasons at Ipswich, transferred to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Her twin sons, Marcus and Max are in their freshman seasons at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School and even managed to make it to their brother’s game by halftime, despite have a game of their own earlier in the night.
“I think we’re all realizing that it’s the quality of time we spend together rather than the quantity, and we’ve learned to appreciate each other more,” noted the mother of four. “A lot of people have jobs in which they travel.
“It does get busy around here, but it’s a great busy. It really has been so much fun for everybody.”
The family recently moved into their new home in Hamilton after their previous one caught fire last March. They were able to stay with family and friends while their new abode was being rebuilt and made it into the new house in time for the holidays.
Back in November, the entire clan went down to Philadelphia to spend Thanksgiving with Carter-Williams and got to take in a 76ers game together.
“We got a cargo van and drove down for five days,” said Carter-Zegarowski. “Keeping in mind that we have a big family, I made sure Michael’s apartment could fit everybody when we picked it out.”
Life as a young NBA player can get lonesome over an 82-game span. Luckily for Carter Williams, Zegarowski is in the City of Brotherly Love with him to help adjust to life as a professional basketball player. A former assistant coach at Charlestown, Zegarowski also attends some of the Sixers practices from above . The two usually spend the car ride home going over things and bouncing ideas off each other.
As manager, Carter-Zegarowski also set up a trust with her son. Carter-Williams’ rookie contract guarantees him 4.5 million dollars over his first two seasons, but that’s been deposited into a trust that he can’t touch for three years. Instead, he’s living off his endorsement deals with Panini and Nike.
“This is a job and Michael is treating it like a job,” Cater-Zegarowski said. “We want Michael to understand how to manage his money. The average NBA career is four-and-a-half years. It’s not a lifetime of money unless you’re smart about it.”