Few players in the last year have elevated their reputation as a deadly shooter as much as St. Andrew's Michael Carter-Williams, the No. 32 overall player in the Class of 2011 on ESPN's latest rankings. While wire-thin, the Hamilton, Mass. native has proven his worth beyond first glance, with his versatile scoring arsenal. And last month, it all came full-circle when he signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Syracuse University next fall. Carter-Williams sat down with ESPNBoston following a Thursday night practice on the Barrington, R.I. campus to discuss his game, his unique pedigree, and his swan song season in Rhode Island.
Q: What kind of goals have you set for yourself this high school season?
A: "Probably just to show leadership to my teammates. I'm a senior, and there's only three seniors on the team. And being a senior captain, I think it's important for the future of the program to show good leadership, so when they become leaders they know how to do it the right way. And, just to try to win a championship, and be a part of a good team my last year, really."
Q: You've got some new faces around here, what's encouraged you most about this new group?
A: "What's most encouraging is they're all just good kids. They're fun to be around with, they're not jerks, they're just good kids. They want to be taught."
Q: How far is Syracuse going this year?
A: "They're going to win it all (laughs)."
Q: National Letter of Intent Day is obviously a big day for alot of kids. How did it feel to finally put your signature on this commitment and make it official?
A: "It felt great just knowing the process is completely over now. It's just preparing to go up there [now], preparing my body in the gym and in school, to go up there. It's a relief for me and my family and my coaches. I was just proud of the decision."
Q: What about from an emotional standpoint?
A: "Like I said, it was just a sign of relief. I was really happy about it. It's something you see kids do on T.V. all the time, people who are in the NBA now signing when they were in high school. So it was a good experience for me."
Q: You've got some interesting lineage. First, the paternal side. Your biological father, Earl Williams, was an assistant at Cambridge under Lance Dottin. Your stepfather, Zach Zegarowski, was an assistant under Jack O'Brien at Charlestown, including during their run earlier this decade of five state titles in six seasons. Those are two of the most well-known coaches in the Boston area, were you able to go to practices and hang out with the team?
A: "Yeah, definitely. When I was with my dad, I got to see alot of Cambridge practices, and when I was with my mom I got to see alot of the Charlestown practices. It was just a great experience for me to see both teams, both the kids from Charlestown and the kids from Cambridge. You see two different styles of coaching. That's probably what made me who I am today, see how to work hard, most kids they want to be good but they just don't know how to work hard."
Q: Specifically, what lessons did you take away from those sessions?
A: "Basketball's a tough game. You've got to be mentally tough. Also, just to never give up, no matter what happens. And to play as a family, whatever it is you're doing."
Q: Your mother, Amanda Zegarowski, is the head girls' basketball coach at Ipswich High. It's obviously a totally different game, more focused on the fundamentals and generally a slower game. What have you taken away from those games?
A: "Just probably, watching my mom coach, patience. She has so much patience, and she pushes them just as much as she pushes me. She's probably my hardest critic, because she keeps on me about everything, my schoolwork, stuff like that. Watching her coach, and her kids play, I learned alot of discipline, too."
Q: The way people describe you, how do you feel about that? Are you comfortable with that?
A: "Yeah, first mostly when they start off an article they say I'm skinny and I'm lean. I mean, yeah I get sick of hearing it sometimes, but you know this is just the way I am. I just think most people don't realize that when I play, I am a skinny kid but I'm also strong. I mean, I really just take it as motivation, to built myself up. Yeah, I try to look at it the best way as possible."
Q: What would you say was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in your game to get to where you are now?
A: "Just staying confident in myself. Last year, and the year before, when things weren't going so well, my shot wasn't falling, or I was making mistakes, I just kinda gave up on myself and my teammates. This year, I've learned that I can't do that, and I've just grown as a person and as a player I've learned to stay confident no matter what."
Q: What's your favorite thing to do on the court?
A: "My favorite thing to do on the court is probably to get my teammates an open layup. Just to get the team going. I know myself, I can create for myself, but unlike most people that are good at basketball they can create for themselves but aren't as good at setting up their teammates. So when I can do that, that's when I'm most happy."
Q: Is there a particular move you like to use to get that teammate open?
A: "Probably a hesitation move, that's one of my favorites."
Q: Take us through game day.
A: "I mostly try to stay focused, listen to music, laugh a little bit just to get my nerves out with my teammates, joke around here and there. But, when it's game time, I'm serious, really. Get a good meal in."
Q: For some people who keep it light, as you described, they feel it slows the game down.
A: "Yeah, I just feel like I'm not tense. I can relax, and just play my game."
Q: What's on your iPod?
A: "Hmm, right now I'm listening to a variety of music. Meek Millz from Philly...I also listen to Jay-Z, Kanye West and Eminem. And J. Cole, too."
Q: What's motivating you the most this season?
A: "Just I know that every day is my last, really. I can't go back in time, every day at practice I've got to cherish it because I don't have a next year. I don't come back to high school next year, I'm going to college, so I'm just going hard in every drill like it's my last, because it is my last. And I'm going to appreciate practicing every day with Coach Hart."