Cut from a different Cloth: The NBA's Rookie of the Year, MichaelCarter-Williams

Posted by Clevis Murray on Monday, May 05, 2014 with No comments

In the Beginning.....

Being black isn't easy. The mother of NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, Mandy Carter-Zegarowski, knows that saying better than anyone. She became pregnant with Carter-Williams in college at Salem State University located in my home state of Massachusetts. Being a pregnant African-American at a predominately Caucasian school was frowned upon during that time period and Carter-Zegarowski considered having a abortion. Deciding against abortion, she raised the eventual NBA star as a single mother in Hamilton, Massachusetts which is a very affluent neighborhood. Tragically, nine months after Carter-Williams was born, the mother of Carter-Zegarowski passed away. One would think that the tragic events would hinder her and "MCW" but it was the complete opposite even though life wasn't easy as they migrated from apartment to apartment.

"We lived in five apartments in five years,’’ Carter-Zegarowski saidIt wasnt easy. But I know Im a stronger person and I think my son is. He learned some hard life lessons early."

Carter-Williams was different as a kid in a good way as he habitually played with a circular, orange object named Spaulding and both have become great friends.

"Some kids had stuffed animals growing up,’’ Carter-Williams said. I had a basketball."

Let me start this off by saying I'm wrong. When Michael Carter-Williams drafted with the 11th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, I honestly thought he was going to be a bust. The young man weighed 185-pounds while standing 6'7. The tallest point guard with that type of height that first comes to mind is obviously Magic Johnson and no one with the height I thought could really succeed. My first glimpse of "MCW" was in the Orland Summer League; I watched him closely because of the lack of faith that I had in him because he has too skinny and his summer league tenure proved me right. I kept a keen eye on a kid I thought was a waste of a lottery pick and a probable bust. At the conclusion of the summer league, he averaged:

Year
PPG
RPG
APG
SPG
FG%
3P%
FT%
2013
13.6
4.2
6.8
2.0
0.271
0.158
0.760

In my opinion, you can't be thought of as a franchise player while averaging those stats in the summer league. Why? Because it's filled with more people trying to achieve than people who will live it and to shoot 27.1% from the field and 15.8% from the 3-point line. Carter-Williams made me think I could play in the NBA with the disappointment he was with his ineptitude shooting. I did the "Birdman handrub"  because I thought I was right on him 100%.

Fast forward to opening night, and the 22-year old had one of the best rookie debuts in NBA history against the reigning 2-time defending champions — Miami Heat. The skinny kid from Hamilton, Massachusetts had 22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds and 9 steals (most by a rookie in their debut) subsequently after that game, he had 26 points and 10 assists against Derrick Rose. Carter-Williams would go on to win player of the week becoming the second rookie to achieve that honor since Shaquille O'Neal in 1992. He had a good first month on the job as he would go on to win the league's Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors for November in which he averaged 16.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.4 steals.

A Guiding Force.....

Most rookies that enter the league make a dream-like salary and with that comes  opportunity but also more distractions but the parents of Carter-Williams would take responsibility of his money to prevent him from mishandling millions of dollars. His mother, Mandy, had deposited the $4.5 million he's guaranteed over the next two years into a trust fund in which he can't touch for the next three years.

"I told Michael hes probably fine without me,” Zegarowski said. But if theres a chance I can make it 1 percent better by being here, Im doing it. Maybe its 2 percent, maybe its 3 percent, maybe its 80 percent — I dont know the percentage — but its just always worked. Im telling him the same things today that I was telling him when he was 10 years old."

His stepfather, Zach Zegarowski, is living with him to help ease the transition from college athlete to NBA star.

"Its going to be a tough year for him physically and emotionally,” Zegarowski said. Im really more of a support system and a sounding board — on top of a cook, a chauffeur, a maid and all that stuff. I just want him to concentrate on basketball."

Carter-Williams has no problem with his father living with him as he loves the bonding time with him.

"Hes been dealing with me with basketball my whole life,” Carter-Williams said. To have him is great. Its a comfortable thing...Its just better having him here. Hes just done it my whole life. There was no other person, really. Im most comfortable with him."

Being a young man in his early years with money like Carter-Williams', his parents are looking out for him so he doesn't surround himself with sycophantic people who will only care about themselves and not Carter-Williams.

A Star in the Making.....

In similar fashion to other NBA rookies who felt as if they should have been drafted with a higher pick, Carter-Williams grew a personal vendetta against the 10 franchises that passed him over.

"Every game I try to prove that I could've been the No. 1 pick," Carter-Williams said. "I have confidence in myself that I should've been."

As the season progressed, Carter-Williams would go in to do something along with Orlando Magic rookie guard Victor Oladipo that hasn't been done before. Two rookies finishing a game with a triple-double. "MCW" finished the game with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and it was the first time since 2007 in which two opponents had a triple-double.

After that game, Carter-Williams would go onto a 7-game hiatus with a skin infection on the front of his right knee which caused right knee soreness. Despite his little lapse, he would go onto win Rookie of the Month of honors by averaging 19.3 points, 8.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 steals for December. The brittle like youngster would go on to achieve the distinction again in January by averaging 16.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.5 steals. Carter-Williams would also make his All-Star weekend debut as he participated in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge and Taco Bell Skills Challenge.

As the NBA season made its annual trek into March, Carter-Williams had his second career triple-double against the underachieving New York Knicks and with that game he became the first Sixers rookie to have two triple-doubles in a season. As March concluded he was named the East's Rookie of the Month for averaging 14.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals. April came around and he was just trying to end his Rookie of the Year season on a high note; he set a Point Guard high with 14 rebounds.

Carter-Williams ended his rookie of the year season with season averages of:
Year
PPG
RPG
APG
SPG
FG%
3P%
FT%
13-14
16.7
6.2
6.3
1.9
0.405
0.264
0.703

The 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year averaged what I call a "Baby Triple-Double" with his season average of 16-6-6. Carter-Williams is the third player in NBA history with a stat line like that in a rookie season, as he joined Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.

"There's so much that's contributed to Michael's success," said Carter-Zegarowski. "Like having a great coach that's allowed him to make mistakes and improve his game."

Despite the stellar season, "MCW" was sadly part of the Philadelphia 76ers team that set a NBA record for futility with a 26-game losing streak which tied the '10-11 Cleveland Cavaliers for the dubious record.


"I think [the losing] is still tough for him," said Carter-Zegarowski. "He's had the good fortune of being a part of a lot of winning teams. We have a lot of conversations about it being a business and we remind him often that there's a goal. The Sixers have a goal, they're just not set up to win right now."

With one season under his belt, "MCW" has his hopes high as he will be playing alongside of Nerlens Noel who missed the entire 2013-2014 season due to rehab as he came back expeditiously and was ready to play but management saw no point in playing him in a wasted season. Philadelphia will most likely have a top-3 pick and hopefully draft a wing player as they progress in their rebuilding phase.

Carter-Williams proved my opinion of him wrong and hopefully he doesn't go through the "sophomore slump" because with a great season like that he shouldn't fall off, especially on a team that desperately needs him. Current New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans, was the last player to have his name mentioned with Oscar Robertson in his rookie season when he was a member of the Sacramento Kings and he fell off by not living up to expectations. Hopefully the lanky guard in the city of "Brotherly Love" doesn't end up like him and becomes a conscientious person in his craft.