Men's Basketball

Carter-Williams joins long-time friend Nerlens Noel with Philadelphia 76ers as 11th pick in 2013 NBA Draft

NEW YORK — When Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel were AAU teammates for a handful of seasons with BABC, the NBA dreams that every young basketball player starts with were becoming more tangible. The two were both stars — eventually McDonald’s All-Americans — and almost shared a court again in college before Noel ultimately chose Kentucky over Syracuse.

The two have been in New York the past few days leading up to the NBA Draft and spent some time together Wednesday, but with both being lottery picks, it didn’t seem like the two would have a chance to play together.

But the Draft is unpredictable, especially this year’s iteration, and through a twist of fate the two are now both members of the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I’m really excited. Me and Nerlens grew up together,” Carter-Williams said. “We’re best friends. We played on the same AAU team in high school. It’s like a dream come true. We always talked about how we were both going to make it to the NBA. For us to end up on the same team is a blessing.”

Carter-Williams and the former Kentucky big man that Carter-Williams knew “before the flattop” will now anchor the rebuilding project that is the 76ers. Philadelphia traded up with the New Orleans Pelicans to land Noel with the No. 6 pick of the 2013 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, giving up All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, then took the All-Star’s replacement, Carter-Williams, at No. 11.

With Holiday gone it makes it almost certain that Carter-Williams will see major minutes at the point this season, if not start — something he couldn’t even do in college until his second season.

“I realize it,” Carter-Williams said. “I just — I have a lot of confidence in myself, and Philadelphia has a lot of confidence in me. I’m going to go there and play my best. I’m just going to go out there and perform every night like I can.”

Carter-Williams led the nation with 292 assists and the Big East with 7.3 per game last season. He was the third point guard selected after Michigan’s Trey Burke, who was selected ninth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves — then traded to the Utah Jazz — and Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum, who went to the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 10 overall.

Noel was perhaps the best defensive anchor in the nation before tearing his ACL in February. The big man averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game for the Wildcats to go with 4.4 blocks per contest.

With Holiday gone and Noel likely out until December, Carter-Williams immediately becomes the young centerpiece of a team without a star, without much depth at his position, and without a head coach.

“I look at the bright side,” Carter-Williams said. “They don’t have a coach. As soon as they get a new coach, he’s going to come in and want to get started on a positive note. He’s going to establish the way he wants to coach a team and the way he wants us to play.”

And when Noel gets back, Philadelphia will have a chance to see the building blocks that will carry it into the cloudy future. Noel was projected to go as early as No. 1 and Carter-Williams was thought to be perhaps the first point guard to be taken, but through possible disappointment there is a tremendous opportunity to rekindle an old partnership at the sport’s highest level.

“I was surprised he went sixth, but it’s how things end up,” Carter-Williams said. “It was meant to be.”

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