While last year’s Syracuse squad was a pleasant surprise, it was the recruiting hauls of the last two seasons anticipated by college hoops insiders across the nation. Alongside Fab Melo, Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair, the Orange was adding Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney and Michael Carter-Williams. The tandem of Murphkins has sprinkled magic on the recruiting trail. The Fizz takes a week-long look at the incoming basketball class for 2011.
SU basketball 101 teaches us Jim Boeheim tends to recruit players who can add length to his zone. Michael Carter-Williams provides that, and much more. Like any player transitioning from high school to college, an adjustment awaits St. Andrew’s School senior in the Salt City. He does most of his high school team’s scoring, and that’s not something he’ll be asked to do at Syracuse. The skill he’s spent the most time trying to develop in preparation for college basketball is his ability to run the show at the point guard position.
It’s easy for skeptics to make the case he should play shooting guard. Carter-Williams’ skinny, 6-5 frame isn’t the typical point guard mold. He excels mainly because he can flat out score the basketball, whether that means stroking NBA-distance jumpers or converting off crafty drives to the paint. But he said point guard is definitely his position of preference, as well as his future coaching staff’s preference for him.
“I’ve talked to Coach Boeheim and Coach Hopkins, and even G-Mac a little bit, and they all say that I’m going to [come to Syracuse] and play the point, so I’m looking forward to it. That’s what I play best.”
That’s probably for the best considering the amount of time he’ll be spending in the backcourt next to Dion Waiters. It’s tough to imagine Waiters ever being anything but a score-first guard.
Carter-Williams explained the reason guard comes so naturally at his height is that he never used to be that tall.
“When I was a freshman I was only like 5-11/5-10, and then my sophomore and junior year I grew a lot, and even this past summer I grew.”
Not that 5-10 is by any means short for a freshman in high school, as millions of American males who are shorter than that would agree. Still, it’s interesting to see how going through a late growth spurt helped Carter-Williams out. Never freakishly tall for his age, he was always treated as point guard or shooting guard. Now he gets to be a uncommonly tall 1-guard, and ESPNU’s 18th-ranked player in his class.
As talented as the St. Andrew’s product is, he’ll have tons of company in the backcourt next year. What does he anticipate in terms of playing time?
“All I’m expecting from Coach Boeheim and Coach Hopkins is just a fair chance to play.”
Which is nice, but also one of the all-time most meaningless sports clichés. Have you ever heard an athlete who earned playing time tell you he didn’t have a fair chance?
Any recruit of Carter-Williams’ stature would want to come in and play immediately, and he almost certainly will. If there is one thing holding him back, the high school senior says it’s his slim physique.
“I think I just need to get stronger, so I can play with bigger guys. Mentally I’m there – it’s just that physical aspect.”
Again, sort of sounds like the opposite of Waiters, no? The Orange could definitely use some more mental toughness – lack of it is why top recruits Fab Melo and Waiters have underperformed in their freshman years, and the less-hyped Baye Moussa-Keita and C.J. Fair have overachieved.
It’s much easier to put on 15 lbs of extra muscle than it is to learn mental strength. Carter-Williams is going to have both before long, and when he does he’ll be the complete package for Syracuse basketball.
Posted: Andrew Kanell