Philadelphia rookie Michael Carter-Williams has been a favorite to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award ever since the beginning of the season, when he led the 76ers' rag-tag squad to a 3-0 start with wins over the Miami Heat, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls. The winning has stopped -- the Sixers have now lost 18 straight games -- but the buzz about "MCW" hasn't let up.
Mandy Carter-Zegarowski, who is both MCW's mother and manager, admits she's been surprised by her son's incredible start.
"During the summer league, preseason, even after that great start over Miami, I never expected or imagined that he was going to have such a successful year," said the 42-year-old mother of four. "It's been a positive light in a tough season for the entire team with all the losses."
Over the summer, Carter-Zegarowski traveled with her son to Orlando for his first NBA summer league. Their journey is one of six stories documented in "Summer Dreams," a two-hour special set to debut on CBS this Saturday night.
Viewers will see Carter-Zegarowski correcting her son's shooting form, ragging the refs about missed calls and getting advice from other NBA moms. They'll also see the tender bond between the young star and his mother, who Carter-Williams says sacrificed her own dreams to provide for him.
"A lot of people are going to know about my mom a lot more," Carter-Williams told the AP of the documentary, admitting he might get teased a bit by teammates for their unique relationship. "But people are going to see me as someone different, too."
The shy, soft-spoken star was born to Earl Williams and Carter-Zegarowski in 1991, when they were both playing college basketball at Salem State. Carter-Zegarowski briefly raised MCW as a single mother before meeting her husband Zach Zegarowski, then a basketball player at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Carter-Zegarowski recently ended a successful 10-year tenure as head coach of the Ipswich (Mass.) High School girls basketball team to focus her efforts on being MCW's manager, and Zegarowski was an assistant coach at powerhouse Charlestown (Mass.) High School for a decade before also turning his focus to Carter-Williams' career.
"I think early on when the show was being taped we weren't quite sure how things would evolve in terms of how in-depth my role would be," said Carter-Zegarowski, who admitted in the documentary that she and her son had to sit down and decide whether she would be just a mom who pats him on the back and says "Good job," or a manager/coach who can tell him when his shot looks off and why.
"We've figured out our roles now," she said. "I'm doing more of the everyday managing stuff, my husband Zach lives with Michael and still works with him a lot on the basketball stuff. He's still very open to feedback on games and practices and all that."
Carter-Williams has clearly been taking any and all advice to heart -- he's defied expectations in his first professional season, leading all rookies in average points (16.8), rebounds (5.6), assists (6.3), steals (2.0) and minutes (34.4). He also has 12 double-doubles on the year, twice as many as the next guy.
"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."
Through it all, the saving grace for Sixers fans has been Carter-Williams; but carrying the load for a 15-49 team has been difficult despite the 22-year-old rookie's individual success. This season, general manager Sam Hinkie has presented the league with its most transparent tank job ever. Philly's current roster is so raw that earlier this month first-year head coach Brett Brown admitted he fears they might not win another game.
"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."
Carter-Zegarowski has a goal in mind for Carter-Williams' financials, as well. Earlier this season, the rookie star's mother made headlines when she announced that Carter-Williams can't touch any of the $4.5 million he's guaranteed over the next two years. He lives on his endorsement deals while his Sixers salary is being deposited into a trust that he won't be able to access for three years.
"He's making some very good choices right now," said Carter-Zegarowski of her son.
If his success on the court continues, his next big choice may be what suit to wear when he accepts his NBA Rookie of the Year award. And you can bet his mom will be there by his side if he does.
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