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.
Michael left Phoenix and flew to Sacramento this past Friday night. He was in great space and felt really good about his Phoenix workout and interviews with the GM and president. His agent received really positive feedback from Phoenix but reminded us that the positive feedback did not mean Phoenix was going to take him. He told me not to get too high or too low through this process, which we could understand. [Carter-Williams’ stepfather] Zach [Zegarowski] and I always tell our kids, don’t ever get too high or too low in basketball. It is a little more difficult not to do this during this process because we feel and have been told a lot will weigh on Michael’s workouts. So after Phoenix, we were looking for houses in Phoenix. Just kidding, but we were happy his first workout went well. Sacramento was a different story.
My family was at a friend’s son’s graduation party on Saturday. I have been friends with Ellen since the fifth grade, so her family is our family. We are very close. We lived with them for a while after our house burnt down. Our kids are best friends. I had actually forgotten Michael was working out because of the time difference, I was not even thinking about when he would be done. I got a text message from him at 4 our time saying: It didn’t go well. My body felt a step behind and I did not defend like I can or shoot as consistently as I have been…..I stayed positive but I did not feel great….
He said he felt dehydrated and had trouble sleeping the night before. I felt sick after reading the text, my stomach dropped. I removed myself from the crowded table I was sitting at and went to an area in the yard where no one was so I could text him back without distraction. I signaled to Zach who was in the middle of a horseshoe game and mouthed, “It did not go well” to him. He continued to play the game, which made the pit in my stomach turn to fire. Is he really not running over here to deal with this, I said to myself!
My fingers were moving furiously as I text Michael he should have been drinking water on the plane the night before and how important preparing yourself physically and mentally is for these workouts. I asked him what the hell he was thinking about and that he must have been distracted. I told him he has to immediately move on from one workout to the next mentally and start thinking about what he needs to do to be ready. The time change, the travel, sleeping in a hotel, he has to adjust quickly and he will need to do that in the NBA. I texted him he has seven workouts in 15 days, he has to be disciplined.
“Mandy, come back and join us,” my friend yelled from what felt like another state as I stood there anxiously wondering how to find out what this means. How bad was the workout? Michael is usually accurate with his self-assessments. I looked over at the table of friends and yelled back, “Michael did not do well in Sacramento,” in a tone that let everyone know not to call my name again. I couldn’t believe it. He just did so well in Phoenix. I glared over at Zach with the threat stare letting him know that either the horseshoe game was going to end or I was going to end it.
I stopped caring about everything else around me and was in my own world. Michael was upset, and I did not have it in me to tell him it was OK. Or that things would work out. I knew Zach could spin it quicker than I could. He has the ability to help Michael learn from things and move on quicker than I do. He doesn’t tell Michael what he wants to hear like a friend would, but he is less intense with his tone and energy than I am, so Michael is more receptive to him. But I don’t care in the moment. It takes me a while to process and regroup. I am working on it, but it’s who I am.
I went right into urgency mode. You can’t get the Sacramento workout back, and I could not get beyond that. Just this week a good friend told me that your greatest strength is your biggest weakness. It was the first time I had heard that. It is very true with me. My intensity gets things done. I fix things, situations and anything I can control. My urgency, determination and intensity has gotten me through a lot of situations in life. I can’t always just shut it off, though. We have worked hard to get here — and I say we because it has been a family effort. In that moment, I felt it is not about experience, it is the result.
Sacramento is a good option for Michael. They have a new owner and a new coach. A new GM is going to be hired, but the goal of the new owners is to get the team going as contenders in the near future and will spend the money to do it.
I called Michael’s agent, Jeff [Schwartz], and did not get an answer. I left a message trying not to sound panicked. Not good, I was thinking, why isn’t he answering. I called another agent in the office who has been great working with us and he answered. I apologized for calling on a Saturday afternoon and he quickly said he was waiting to hear how Michael did. I told him about the text I got. He said he was afraid that would happen. He said a lot of times when players have a good workout they struggle at the next one. He said he would make a call to someone he knows that works for Sacramento. I thanked him without really expressing how desperate I was to get feedback. He quickly called back and said that Michael struggled with a defensive drill that a lot of the guys struggle with and he shot OK. It was not a terrible workout but it was not great. A few players that are expected to go in the second round were at the workout with Michael, so Michael should have excelled more. On a good day, like at Phoenix, he does.
As I was being talked off the ledge, Jeff called me back. He reminded me of not getting too high or low and said that it was not as bad is it seems. He did acknowledge Michael needing to make sure he is hydrated and prepared. He said he would have a conversation with Michael. He let me know that the coach said he really likes Michael as a person and they had a great interview. While I was talking with Jeff, Zach was text messaging with Michael.
Michael’s last text to me was a response to me texting him being to be better prepared. He said he didn’t not prepare on purpose and that he was not going to include me on the group text messages informing us of how he did next time. That deserved an “lol”! In the middle of everything Michael is experiencing in the NBA world of workouts, ESPN interviews, social media madness and autographs, we are still Mom and son, and that is the journey.
Next up, Dallas and Mark Cuban.