Hamilton resident Mandy Carter-Zegarowski, the mother of Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams and the girls basketball coach at Ipswich High School, is chronicling the days leading up to the June 28 NBA draft through blog entries for WEEI.com. Carter-Williams, who prepped at Hamilton-Wenham High School and Rhode Island’s St. Andrews School before spending two seasons at Syracuse, is projected to be a lottery pick.
On May 24th Chad Ford, ESPN Insider writer, came to Glen Cove [N.Y.] to watch Michael and a few other players from Excel [Sports Management] play. He covers the draft extensively and wanted to see Michael, C.J. [McCollum] and Mike [Muscala] work out.
Michael’s shooting has been the talk of his downside, so Chad wanted to come out and see what was going on. Michael did a workout with [trainer] Jay [Fernandez] while Chad filmed it. Having to shoot under pressure in front of a well-respected sports journalist had to make him nervous, but we saw no signs of nerves. The workout was at a local Boys & Girls Club. Michael shot very well. He hit 3-pointers, NBA threes, mid-range jumpers, and was explosive off the dribble getting to the basket.
I had never met Chad before, and both [Carter-Williams’ stepfather] Zach [Zegarowski] and I enjoyed talking hoop with him after the workout. We talked about what he was hearing from GMs. He explained how his draft rankings focus more on matching a player with a team need. Because there isn’t a LeBron James  in this year’s draft, teams are looking for a player who will fit in with their current roster of players. Some teams say they are going to pick the best player available, but the best player in the top 10 isn’t obvious, it will be more the opinion of the NBA team. Nerlens [Noel], who has been on the top of most draft boards, is injured, and that leaves some questions, but he will definitely go 1 or 2. Nerlens Noel is a close friend of Michael’s and spends a lot of time at our house. It is pretty amazing to have both of them and Ricky Ledo in the draft. Ricky went to St. Andrews [in Rhode Island] with Michael for a year and they have stayed friends since sophomore year.
For Michael, Chad coming to watch him and then write about him was positive. If Michael shot poorly and did not have a good workout I don’t think Chad would have written anything negative but he would have let his readers know through his draft board that Michael has work to do. He said to us that Michael looks way more athletic and explosive in person and that if he performs like he did for him at his NBA workouts, he will be in a great position.
The following Tuesday, Draft Express came out and again, Michael played great and shot the ball well. Initially I was skeptical with the idea of Chad and Draft Express coming to watch Michael, because both Chad and Draft Express have a ton of readers and if Michael did poorly I thought it could hurt him. It ended up helping Michael by having them see his strengths and the improvement on his weakness. Great idea by his agent to [complement] his NBA workouts. Both Chad and Draft Express put out a video of Michael as well as an interview.
During the draft period NBA teams call agents and request a player to come for a workout. They take care of all the expenses, fly him out there and have an itinerary waiting for him. They want to see the player in person work out and they want some time to get to know the player. Michael’s first stop was in Phoenix. He flew out Wednesday morning and had his workout [Thursday]. C.J. McCollum and Shane Larkin were there as well. Trey Burke, who was player of the year and is said to be the best point guard in the draft, was there as well. According to an article I read, Trey’s agent said he could not work out with the other players, so he did his alone. Trey is in a good situation, being regarded as the top point guard in the draft, so, similar to the combine, he is not going to put himself in a situation to question that.
I was on pins and needles hoping that Michael played well. I got a text from Michael at 2:30 that he “killed workout number1,” which made me laugh first and sigh with relief. Having a good first workout is huge because now he will go into the rest of them with confidence. He didn’t know what to expect. He said they did drills and then played three-on-three. I am not sure who the other three were that they played three-on-three with, because getting information from him is like pulling teeth. I met someone in Atlanta who used to work for the Suns, so I texted him to let him know that Michael was in Phoenix. He said he would make a call and see how Michael did. They said Michael was impressive, quick and explosive, shot has improved and they loved him!
Michael left to go out to dinner with the Phoenix GM later in the day and is having breakfast with the president [Friday] morning. Phoenix has the fifth pick. They picked a point guard last year, so I am not sure if they will go that route this year. Michael is working out out for seven NBA teams. I have been researching who the point guards are for each team and the potential trades that could happen. Looks like Phoenix will keep its No. 5 pick and not trade it, but teams have right up until it is their turn at the draft to make a trade. Phoenix has a rookie point guard, Kendall Marshall, and Goran Dragic, who averaged 15 points and seven assists. The question is would they play three guards.
Next stop: Sacramento.