While Anthony Bennett, the number one overall pick in last June’s draft, has struggled mightily at the outset of his NBA career, the same has not been true for Philadelphia 76ers rookie guard Michael Carter-Williams. Bennett has not made a single basket through his first four games, going 0-15 from the floor.
Carter-Williams, on the other hand, has exploded onto the NBA scene. In his first professional contest, the Hamilton, Mass., native lit up the two-time defending champion Miami Heat to the tune of 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven rebounds. He followed that up two games later with a 26 point, 10 assist, four rebound, three steal effort against the Chicago Bulls.
Carter-Williams’ teammate, the 6’11’’ Nerlens Noel, is expected to miss the entire 2013-14 campaign while recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered last season at the University of Kentucky. The Everett, Mass., native was projected to be the No. 1 overall pick before blowing out his knee last February.
Carter-Williams and Noel are just two examples of Massachusetts natives who excelled in college and were fortunate enough to bring their games to the professional level. Carter-Williams earned AP Honorable Mention All-American and All-Big East Second Team accolades last season at Syracuse, while Noel garnered All-SEC First Team and SEC Rookie of the Year honors in his lone season in Lexington.
Although Carter-Williams and Noel now toil in the professional ranks, there are still many Massachusetts natives making an impact on the collegiate level. With the 2013-14 college basketball season only a few days away, here is a class-by-class breakdown of some of the best Bay State talent competing in the upcoming season.
Shabazz Napier, guard, UConn
Napier is probably the best-known MA native currently starring in college basketball. The Roxbury, Mass., product was a key piece on UConn’s 2010-11 national championship squad, and he earned All-Big East First Team honors last season after averaging 17.1 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.4 RPG and 2.0 SPG for the Huskies.
This season, Napier will be counted on as the leader of a team that will be hungry to get back to the NCAA Tournament following its absence last season due to an NCAA ban for poor academic standing.
Malik Smith, guard, Minnesota
Smith was cleared to play for Minnesota this season following his transfer from Florida International University at the conclusion of his junior campaign. Last year at FIU, the Boston, Mass., native averaged 14.7 PPG and 2.7 RPG while setting a school record by draining 96 three pointers.
Smith will be an important offensive piece for new Minnesota coach Richard Pitino, who took the head position with the Big 10 school last April.
Gerard Coleman, guard, Gonzaga
Coleman joins the Zags following his transfer from Providence College, where he started 21 of 30 games as a sophomore in 2011-12, averaging 13.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.1 APG and 1.1 SPG for the Friars. The West Roxbury, Mass. product scored a career-high 30 points against West Virginia University in '11-12, and has the ability to fill up the stat sheet on a consistent basis.
Prior to his time at Providence, Coleman starred at the Tilton School, where he averaged 28.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.8 APG and 3.0 SPG as a senior. Look for Coleman to fit right into Gonzaga’s starting 5 in the upcoming season.
Evan Smotrycz, forward, Maryland
Smotrycz will suit up for the Terps in 2013-14 after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules. The Reading, Mass. native averaged 7.7 PPG and 4.9 RPG in only 21.1 MPG at Michigan in 2011-12, while shooting 48% from the field and 43.5% from three-point range.
The sharpshooter will have an expanded role this season and should see both his minutes and overall statistics increase drastically.
Pat Connaughton, guard/forward, Notre Dame
Connaughton has been a key player for the Fighting Irish since his arrival in South Bend. The Arlington, Mass. product has seen action in 69 games during his first two seasons, and he has started 53 contests for the Irish, including every game last season.
Connaughton averaged 8.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 2.1 APG in 32.1 MPG as a sophomore for Notre Dame in 2012-13. He is known as a versatile scorer but also a tough defender and was voted by his teammates as one of the squad's captains heading into the upcoming season.
Jake Layman, forward, Maryland
Layman will team up with fellow MA native Smotrycz in College Park to form one of the most accurate shooting duos in the ACC. The Wrentham, Mass., product averaged only 5.5 PPG and 3.2 RPG as a freshman last season, but like Smotrycz, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon is expecting him to take on a much bigger role this season.
Georges Niang, forward, Iowa State
Niang was spectacular in his first season as a Cyclone, averaging 12.1 PPG and 4.6 RPG, while making a team-high 51.5 percent of his shots. The Methuen, Mass., native helped lead Iowa State to a 23-12 season and a 76-58 win over #7 seed Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Niang was named to the Big-12 All-Rookie team for his efforts last season, and will continue to develop under head coach Fred Hoiberg in the upcoming campaign.
Noah Vonleh, forward, Indiana
Vonleh, a 5-star recruit out of Haverhill, Mass., joins the famed Indiana Hoosiers basketball program looking to fill the void left by current Charlotte Bobcat and former Indiana superstar Cody Zeller. Vonleh will have big shoes to fill, as Zeller led the Hoosiers to their first Big 10 title since 2002 last season.
The 6’10’’, 240 pound forward is supremely talented, and teamed up with star guard Yogi Ferrell, Indiana should be in a position to battle it out with Michigan for the top spot in the Big 10 this season.
Wayne Selden, guard, Kansas
Lost in the hype of one of the most highly-touted freshmen in the history of college basketball, Andrew Wiggins, is Roxbury, Mass., native Wayne Selden.
Selden and Wiggins join sophomore Perry Ellis on a Kansas team stacked with talent but lacking experience. The Jayhawks lost all five of their starters from a season ago, and will now rely on the young guns to fill the void.
Selden, the No. 14 rated player in ESPN’s top 100 recruits for the class of 2013, is an exciting, explosive scorer who will become a lottery pick in next June’s draft, along with Wiggins.
As a senior at the Tilton School last year, Selden averaged 24.8 PPG, 10.1 RPG and 4.0 APG and would go on to become a McDonald’s All-American.
Although the spotlight will be on Wiggins all season, Selden will instantly become one of the most talented players in college basketball the first time he steps on the floor as a Jayhawk.