By Matthew Fairburn
Back in the spring of 2008, the Boston Amateur Basketball Club was dominating in a first-round game of an AAU district tournament against a team thrown together by Zach Zagrowski, the stepfather of Michael Carter-Williams.
The scoreboard displayed a lopsided score in BABC’s favor, but CarterWilliams, who had recently completed his freshman season at Hamilton-Wenham High School, didn’t stop attacking. He knew he had a chance to prove himself against an elite program.
“I knew it would be a great opportunity, and I just tried to make the best out of it,” Carter-Williams said.
Carter-Williams did make the best of it. A bit undersized at the time, standing just 5-feet-9-inches tall, he showed off his range, making 3-pointer after 3-pointer. Despite BABC still playing him tight, he continued to make contested shots and drive the lane, impressing Papile and his opponents.
“Nobody really knew who he was, then he put like 35 on us,” recalled Alex Oriakhi, who played for BABC before continuing his career at Connecticut and Missouri. “And I was like, ‘Wow, that kid can play.’ I always knew he had the ability to do it.”
Just a few months later, Carter-Williams was playing for BABC and was enrolled at St. Andrew’s School in Rhode Island. He had taken the next step in his basketball career.
“That’s when I really started to get noticed,” Carter-Williams recalled.During his time with BABC under Papile, Carter-Williams grew, most notably in height. He sprouted more than six inches during high school and was listed at 6-feet-6-inches tall as a sophomore at Syracuse.
But he also grew as a player. Prior to joining BABC, Carter-Williams played off the ball a lot, given his ability to score and create chances. When Carter-Williams started playing for BABC, Papile wanted to get the ball in his hands.
Zagrowski, Carter-Williams’ stepfather and coach, was hesitant.
“I remember telling Zach, ‘I want to get him on the ball and make a point guard out of him,’” Papile recalls. “He says ‘I don’t know, Mike can score.’ I said ‘I can see all that, but combine his scoring ability with his ability to see the floor, you could have a pro some day.’”
Carter-Williams has now made Papile’s vision a reality. After two seasons at Syracuse, the 6-foot-6-inch point guard he declared for the 2013 NBA Draft and was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the No. 11 pick in the first round on Thursday night.
He will now get to play with his former AAU teammate, Nerlens Noel, the No. 6 pick, whom the Sixers traded for.
Michigan’s Trey Burke may have been the first point guard taken in this year’s draft, but Carter-Williams, a Hamilton, Mass., native, will still hold a special place in BABC lore.
“He’s one of my favorites,” Papile said.