Michael Carter-Williams Impresses Jim Boeheim in a Rhode Island HomecomingPosted by Dan Lyons on January 10th, 2013
Dan Lyons is an RTC Big East microsite writers who also writes for the Syracuse blog, “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.” You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s match-up between Syracuse and Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.
Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams has had more impressive games this season than last night’s 17-point, six-assist, six-rebound, five-steal effort against Providence. The 6’6″ guard, who grew up in Hamilton, Massachusetts, and played his high school ball 15 minutes from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center at St. Andrew’s School in Barrington, Rhode Island, has flirted with triple-doubles on various occasions this season, missing the milestone by a single assist or rebound three times already. Last night, the general steadiness with which Carter-Williams ran Jim Boeheim‘s offense impressed the venerable head coach.
Carter-Williams’ play for Syracuse this year has been almost revelatory, considering the sophomore played few meaningful minutes last season. After the game, when asked about his guard’s ascent from little-used freshman to All-American sophomore, Boeheim made a comparison to perhaps the greatest point guard in school history: Sherman Douglas, who sat behind Pearl Washington as a freshman before leading the Orangemen to a national championship game berth as a sophomore. Boeheim spent a large portion of his presser discussing Carter-Williams’ play, as one would expect in Providence, saying that “MCW” is “playing as well as you can expect.”
The steady play from Carter-Williams was a good sign for a player who has wildly vacillated between excellence and mediocrity from game to game over the last few weeks. In Syracuse’s only loss this season — against Temple at Madison Square Garden — Carter-Williams was an abysmal 3-of-17 from the field, and only 7-of-15 from the free throw line, missing a number of big shots down the stretch in what ended up as a four-point defeat. In the following game against Alcorn State, he finished with only five points in addition to six assists to five turnovers. Two days later, Carter-Williams put up an impressive 18 points, 13 assists, and nine rebounds against Central Connecticut, and followed that up with a 12-point, 10-assist effort against Rutgers, but fell back to earth with a four-point night at USF on 1-of-13 shooting from the field. In games where the Orange have failed to hit jump shots, Carter-Williams puts the onus of the offense on himself and becomes a black hole, like we saw in the Temple and USF contests. Against Providence, only C.J. Fair could hit a jump shot; as a team Syracuse was 12-of-42 on jumpers and 3-of-21 from three-point range. However, instead of forcing the issue himself, Carter-Williams kept going to the hot hand and also fed Rakeem Christmas inside, who had one of his best games in orange with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, eight rebounds, and three blocks in 38 minutes.
After the game, Boeheim was asked about Carter-Williams as a point guard, as many believed that he was destined to play the two out of high school. Boeheim was adamant that he always saw him as a point, and after seeing ‘MCW’ drive to the bucket to draw the defenders in Providence’s zone before throwing a no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to James Southerland for a soft foul line jumper, it would appear that Boeheim was spot on with that assessment. Carter-Williams is a talented scorer to be sure, but Syracuse is best suited with Fair leading the way with his crafty mid-range game, or Brandon Triche or Southerland getting hot from behind the arc. Carter-Williams is at his best when he’s breaking down his defender one-on-one and kicking the ball out to the open man, not forcing the issue at the hoop on his own. If Boeheim can keep his talented young play-maker focused on distributing to his teammates, Carter-Williams may eventually enter more discussions with the names ‘Sherman’ and ‘Pearl’ as realistic comparisons.