Carter-Williams is Syracuse’s ‘rock’
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA — Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams was adamant Friday that all of the pressure in his national semifinals matchup with Trey Burke is on the Michigan point guard, the Associated Press national player of the year.
“There is no pressure on me,” Carter-Williams said. “He has got a lot of pressure on him coming off the national player of the year and being up to a certain standard.”
Don’t buy it. Carter-Williams is no longer the high school freshman who received an evaluation after a basketball camp that concluded he would be a “good Division III basketball player.” And he is no longer the freshman who had fleeting thoughts about transferring because he struggled mightily to even get on the court last season.
If Burke is the nation’s best point guard, Carter-Williams is not far behind. Teammates call him the “rock” for this Syracuse team that is making its first Final Four appearance in a decade. Coach Jim Boeheim says the sophomore is the key for the Orange, which has hit the reset button on its season following a 39-point effort in the regular season finale at Georgetown.
Not only is Carter-Williams fourth on the team in scoring and third in rebounding, but he ranks third nationally in assists and fourth in steals. A lanky 6-foot-6 presence, he is an integral piece at the top of a Syracuse zone that features as much size as it has had since 1996, when the Orange lost to Kentucky in the national title game. And Carter-Williams has become a leader in his first season logging significant minutes.
“He is a tremendous all-around point guard,” Boeheim said Friday.
Carter-Williams is averaging 35.2 minutes per game after playing just 10.3 minutes per game last season, when there was a logjam of capable guards with Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters. There were 11 games when Carter-Williams never got off the bench.
So Carter-Williams was left contemplating how he could go from a McDonald’s All-American to sitting on the bench. Mike Hart, his former high school coach at St. Andrew’s School in Barrington, R.I., had a hard time explaining it to him because … [For more on Michael Carter-Williams is Syracuse's 'rock' in Final Four, click here.]