Originally posted on www.hoopsworld.com by Alex Kennedy
Michael Carter-Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2013-14 NBA season. He posted one of the best NBA debuts of all-time, contributing 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals in an upset victory over the Miami HEAT, and continued to play well in Philadelphia’s next four games.
The 76ers are now 3-2 – better than anyone expected – and the No. 11 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft is averaging 19.8 points, 7.6 assists, five rebounds and three steals.
One person who isn’t surprised by Carter-Williams’ success is the point guard’s former high school coach, Michael Hart. Hart coached Carter-Williams at St. Andrew’s (Barrington, R.I.) and envisioned this type of production from the 6’6 floor general.
“Well, I look at it this way – and people can agree or disagree – the NBA game is very similar to AAU basketball,” Hart told Jason Jordan of USA TODAY High School Sports. “Michael was great in both AAU and high school, but he put up obscene numbers in AAU. I knew if he got to the NBA he’d really have a chance to shine.
“He was extremely competitive so when it became a competitive situation, whether it was in practice or in a game, he would become a little nasty, but I loved that because I knew he was determined to win. I always said it borders on poor sportsmanship, but that desire is what you need to be great.”
Carter-Williams made a strong first impression on Hart, reminding him of pre-injury Shaun Livingston.
“He reminded me so much of Shaun Livingston,” Hart said. “Shaun was a great player in high school; people forget he was the No. 4 pick in the Draft in ’04. I’d tell people Michael’s whole high school career that he’s a point guard, but no one believed me. He had the ability to make other guys better. I always thought he was a special player.
“[My best memory of Carter-Williams] was the DeMatha game. We went down to West Virginia and played DeMatha and they were undefeated and a top-10 team in USA Today. We beat them 49-46. Michael had 26 points and eight steals, but it’s how he did it. He opened the game missing a dunk and missing a few shots and we went down eight or nine points. He could’ve folded, but he stuck with it and motivated the rest of the guys. He started on the defensive end and that changed everything in that game. That’s when I was really sold on him possibly playing in the NBA one day.”
When asked if he’s amazed by Carter-Williams NBA accomplishments, Hart didn’t hesitate.
“Not at all,” Hart said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that he’s had so much success, but there’s also 79 more games after those first three. Every time I talk or text with him he’s always talking about his teammates. That’s the kind of guy that he is. I remember on draft night we were telling him that he’d have to adjust a little because, with so many games in a season, they’d be losing a lot more than he’s used to and he said, ‘No we’re not!’ So far he’s off to a great start.”
Carter-Williams won Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors in the first week of the season, becoming the first rookie to win the award in their opening week since Shaquille O’Neal.