SYRACUSE For a player that was on the floor only 10 minutes a game and averaged less than three points as a freshman, sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams generated a lot of buzz as Syracuse began a new mens basketball season on Friday.
Media engulfed the 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams at the Carmelo Anthony Center as the Orange began what promises to be another highly-successful campaign with their annual media day.
And because Carter-Williams will occupy one of the most critical positions on the court, point guard, his performance will go a long way toward determining SUs success.
Were giving him the ball and expecting great things, SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. Last year was a great learning experience for Michael. He soaked in a lot of things by just watching and practicing every day against veterans like Scoop (Jardine), Dion (Waiters) and Brandon (Triche). Now we feel hes ready to take the next step.
Which is, in most peoples eyes, a pressure-filled task, especially for such a young player with limited experience. Yet, Carter-Williams said Friday hes more than ready for what lies ahead.
I feel like Im ready because of how I prepared last year and in the offseason, he said. Theres always going to be pressure in a program like this. But I saw how the veterans handled things last year, and I believe it has rubbed off. I cant wait to get going.
Carter-Williams, a former McDonalds All-American from the St. Andrews School in Rhode Island, played in 26 games as a rookie, including 12 Big East Conference games.
He averaged 2.7 points and had 54 assists while shooting 43 percent from the floor and 39 percent on 3-pointers.
Boeheim played Carter-Williams mainly in less stressful situations where he didnt need veterans like Jardine or Triche running the team.
What Boeheim saw of Carter-Williams in his limited minutes, however, he liked. And the fact that Boeheim is handing the ball to an inexperienced player speaks volumes of the coachs confidence in Carter-Williams to get the job done.
When we asked him to do things, he did very well, Boeheim said. Im sure he would have liked to play more, but we had three experienced guys ahead of him and I think he understood his role. That said, hes as talented a player at that position as weve ever had. If that translates into what we think it will, well have a great player.
SU assistant coach Mike Hopkins said Carter-Williams can impact the game in so many ways besides scoring.
He can have games like 10 assists, 10 rebounds and three steals and not score a point and be valuable, Hopkins said. And I think he was probably our best zone defender along with Dion, so thats really going to make it tougher for teams to attack us from the outside because of Michaels length and quickness.
And its not only the Orange who have taken notice of Carter-Williams. Several national publications have already designated the Hamilton, Mass., native as one of the top point guards in the country and as a breakout performer in major college basketball.
Carter-Williams said with so many eyes on his performance this year, hell be in the spotlight.
I watched how guys like Kris Joseph and Dion handled themselves, and I think Ive learned from that, Carter-Williams said. I have confidence in myself and my ability to get this job done and lead this team.
SU assistant Gerry McNamara, a former Orange point guard, said he senses Carter-Williams leadership skills and likes his confidence.
Hes got a touch of arrogance, and I like that in a point guard, McNamara said. The skys the limit for what Michael can do at Syracuse
Boeheim believes Carter-Williams is more than ready to assume a huge role for us. Hes hit the ground running this fall already, and is probably as advanced a player for his youth as weve ever had here.
For now, Carter-Williams said he will try to be patient and not allow things to overwhelm him.
Its a long and gruelling season, and there are going to be ups and downs, he said. My goal is to just be consistent, to get the ball to our scorers and play great defense. If I can do that, Ill be satisfied.