Michael Carter-Williams Leap to Superstar Status Gives Syracuse a Great Shot at Another Deep RunPosted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2012
Danny Connors is an RTC correspondent.
It wasn’t too long ago that Michael Carter-Williams was a forgotten member of the Syracuse Orange. Stuck behind an experienced backcourt featuring Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and Brandon Triche, Carter-Williams seemed glued to the bench – playing sparingly, and with a tight leash whenever his name was called. The 6’6” point guard only played in four of the Orange’s last 11 games and did not enter any of last year’s NCAA Tournament contests. “I thought I should have been playing,” he said. Fast forward a year later and Carter-Williams is proving to be one of college basketball’s biggest breakout players. After a 15-point, 16-assist performance in a 108-56 thrashing of Monmouth over the weekend, the Massachusetts native is averaging 12 points and over 10 assists per game, good for first in the country. His 16 assists versus Monmouth were the third most in Syracuse single-game history, behind only Sherman Douglas and Pearl Washington.
Carter-Williams has kept the Orange’s offense running smoothly with his deft passing ability and vocal leadership. When he leaves the game, Syracuse is left without a facilitator and the offense crumbles. As shown in Luke Winn’s latest Power Rankings, Carter-Williams assists on 50.2% of Syracuse’s field goals, which is fourth most in the country. Rakeem Christmas, the recipient of many of Carter-Williams alley-oops, said having the point guard on the floor is key. “He [Carter-Williams] makes it very easy. Just knowing he’s there on the court makes me want to get open even more, so he can pass the ball to me.” He said his vocality on the floor is something he learned from Jardine. “Scoop was great. He taught me a lot. I learned from him a lot, probably more than any other player,” he said. Carter-Williams can often be seen directing a teammate where to go on the floor or gathering the troops for a quick huddle before a free throw. “He’s just taking control of this whole entire team,” said redshirt freshman Trevor Cooney. Aside from his assist numbers, Carter-Williams has also stuffed the box score in the rebounding and steals columns. He’s second on the team in rebounding with six per game, and fourth in the country in steals with just under four per game.
One area where Carter-Williams has struggled has been from three-point range, where he started the year just 1-of-15. Fans and analysts alike took to Twitter, writing that he needs to develop his jump shot, declaring it a weakness. Carter-Williams said he has heard the rumblings and strongly disagrees with the assessment. “I’ve been hearing that I can’t shoot, but I’ve been shooting my whole career. I was just in a little slump, so hopefully I’m back now.” He said he thinks people rushed to judgement after a slow start, not looking at his success last year or in high school. “Don’t judge my game if you haven’t watched me. Don’t judge me after just five games,” Carter-Williams said. In the past two games, he is 5-of-12 from long range.
After posting his third consecutive double-double, Carter-Williams said he is hoping for a triple-double next, a far cry from last season’s hopes of just getting into games. He said the learning experiences from his tough first year have helped him now that he’s starring for SU. “It kept me patient and told me I still have work to do,” he said, adding, “trying to make them better [in practice], made me better.” Last offseason, Carter-Williams said he worked mostly on ball-handling to prepare for the new role as lead guard. Head coach Jim Boeheim is pleased with the improvement and the product on the floor. “Michael is getting his numbers every night, he’s getting the ball to people, finding people, that’s what he does.” Assuming Carter-Williams keeps it up, Boeheim has a great shot at getting his team back to the Final Four.