Not too long ago, Michael Carter-Williams was preparing for the debut of the local, new YMCA in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Today, the court bears his name.
After the Ipswich YMCA named their new basketball court after Carter-Williams for his part in helping them raise enough money to refurbish part of the facility, the young point guard detailed the journey from past to present with his small-town YMCA.
“I was there the first day the YMCA actually opened,” Carter-Williams recalled. “The grand opening.”
As a young kid, Carter-Williams had no problem going to the YMCA by himself to work on his game. The “safe, family environment” he described allowed the former Syracuse star to take his game to new heights.
“It’s a really important place to me,” Carter-Williams said, eager to offer an endless stream of kind words to the place that helped mold him into the man he is today.
“Like I said, I’ve been there since the opening. I was honestly the first person to be at the gym and shoot at the hoops and everything. I think my first workout ever was at that YMCA.”
With a population of less than 15,000 people, Ipswich is the small town with plenty of familiar faces. For Carter-Williams, that’s what made the Y so special.
“It’s not real loud with a ton of people,” Carter-Williams said. “You see the same people a lot. It’s nice to build relationships with people that are regulars there and that’s something you really don’t see a lot.”
On the court, Carter-Williams did it all. Ball handling, shooting, defense, weight lifting. You name it and Carter-Williams got his start with it at the YMCA.
“I did everything there,” the former Rookie of the Year remembered. “That place has definitely helped me become the basketball player that I am today.”
As his game matured on the court, the Y was also there for Carter-Williams when he needed a place to solve life’s problems off the court.
No matter what was going on, the YMCA was there through the good and the bad.
“It really helped me find peace of mind,” Carter-Williams recalled. “It really helped me control my emotions through life.”
But the big memory for the Massachusetts native was the work. Long days working on his game with his stepfather to do whatever possible to improve his game. Putting in the time at the Y is what helped Carter-Williams separate himself.
“The work that I put in is the work that I’m going to get out,” Carter-Williams quickly remembered, as if he had repeated it a million times in his head.
Now, with his NBA career underway and young players looking to him as a role model, Carter-Williams knows he has to lead by example. He hopes to instill the level of commitment to the game he discovered at the Y.
“If a kid sees me working out in the gym, he might want to work out instead of just being there fooling around with his friends,” Carter-Williams said. “That’s what I try to do. Just show people the seriousness of what you want to do and don’t look back once you commit to it.”
Carter-Williams’ recent commitment to the YMCA was an easy one. When the chance arrived to renew the gym, Carter-Williams knew he had to come forward.
“I was honored when they said that they wanted to put the court in my name,” Carter-Williams added. “Just all the hard work and success I’ve reached from working out in that gym. It was definitely a great place to be. It’s just always been a good place and a family environment to me.”
After helping to fund the final portion of the renovation budget to improve the Ipswich facilities, Carter-Williams saw the court he grew up on now named after him.
Looking back, the young Bucks point guard remembers the countless hours he put in at the gym – after school, over the weekends, in the summer time.
From workouts with his stepfather and little brothers and sisters to open runs with his friends, Carter-Williams stills sees family in the Y.
“I’m glad some kid will be as successful as I am who came through working out there,” Carter-Williams hoped. “Maybe one day it could be his or her gym.”