NEW YORK — Long before Philadelphia, and even before Syracuse and Kentucky, Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams shared a dream.
When the two were high schoolers on the same AAU team, they saw the potential in one another.
“We always talked about how we were both going to make it to the NBA,” Carter-Williams said. “For us to end up on the same team is a blessing.”
Thanks to a draft day trade, the two were reunited on Thursday night. Carter-Williams was selected with the 11th pick by the Philadelphia 76ers, while Noel was shipped there after he was picked 6th by New Orleans.
The pairing nearly happened in college.
Noel, the top high school recruit in the 2012 class had narrowed his decision to Georgetown, Syracuse and Kentucky. Carter-Williams, then a freshman with the Orange, was recruiting his high school friend to come join him.
“He knows I want him to come here, definitely,” Carter-Williams told The Juice Online in 2012.
Instead, the two friends would have to wait, as Noel picked the Wildcats.
Noel had a standout freshman season, averaging 10.5 points and 4.4 blocks before tearing his ACL in February.
Once a lock at No. 1, Noel fell to the 6th pick before New Orleans scooped him up. But almost immediately after he was selected, he was shipped with a conditional 2014 first round pick to Philadelphia in exchange for point guard Jrue Holiday and the 42nd pick in the draft.
Meanwhile, Carter-Williams led Syracuse to the Final Four after averaging 11.9 points and 7.3 assists per game. His brilliant postseason catapulted him to the lottery, and ultimately to the Philadelphia 76ers. Carter-Williams will likely start right away with Holiday, the incumbent point guard, gone.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself, and Philadelphia has a lot of confidence in me,” Carter-Williams said. “I’m a quick learner and I’ll adapt to the NBA fast.”
He’ll need to, because Philadelphia is a team that is in full rebuilding mode.
They went 34-48 last season, and missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons after losing Andrew Bynum to a knee injury. Bynum was originally projected as the team’s centerpiece, but he may never play a single game for them.
They are also currently a team without a coach, as Doug Collins stepped down after the disappointing season.
Now, the 76ers will look to rebuild around Carter-Williams and Noel.
“There’s some pressure there, no doubt about it,” Carter-Williams said. “I’ve been dealing with pressure coming from Syracuse and having the ball in my hands my sophomore year after a bunch of guys left. It was my job to lead them.”
Philadelphia is hoping for similar results.