CHAPEL HILL James Michael McAdoo said recently that he sometimes thought about what his life would be like in the NBA – and what it would have been like had he decided, like some thought he should have, to enter the NBA draft after his freshman season at North Carolina.
If those thoughts haunted McAdoo, he never said. Apparently, though, he was tired of wondering.
McAdoo on Thursday announced that he will skip his senior season at UNC and enter the NBA draft. His decision comes as somewhat of a surprise both because he had provided no indication that he was considering a move to the NBA and because he’s not projected as a first-round draft pick.
Nonetheless, McAdoo said in a statement that he felt ready and that he felt it was time to pursue a professional career.
“I just feel I am ready to play at the next level and excited about that challenge,” said McAdoo, a second-team All-ACC selection the past two seasons. “I had chances to go after my freshman and sophomore years but was more excited about coming back to school then.
“Right now I am excited about fulfilling my dream to play in the NBA and do what I have to do to take that next step.”
DraftExpress.com, which is considered one of the foremost sources for NBA draft analysis and projections, considers McAdoo, a 6-foot-9 forward, a late-second round prospect. The website projects McAdoo to be selected with the 25th pick in the second round.
Chad Ford, an NBA draft analyst for ESPN, recently ranked McAdoo as the 60th-best prospect among players who could potentially make themselves eligible for the draft. McAdoo will have a chance to raise his stock in pre-draft camps and in individual workouts with teams.
He averaged 14.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game during his junior season, and he was at his best during the early part of the Tar Heels’ 12-game winning streak – one that saved UNC’s season after its 1-4 start in the ACC. During that streak McAdoo became an emotional leader, and his teammates seemed to thrive off of his energy.
UNC coach Roy Williams said in a statement that he supported McAdoo’s decision.
“I am extremely happy for James Michael,” Williams said. “But at the same time I am sad for me because I won’t get a chance to coach that youngster again. He’s a wonderful kid who has been a very dependable player and one of the top players in the ACC the past two seasons.”
McAdoo’s departure leaves the Tar Heels with a significant void in the frontcourt and, specifically, at the power forward position. Had he returned, UNC likely would have entered next season ranked among the top five teams in the country.
The Tar Heels are still likely to be among the favorites to win the ACC. Marcus Paige, the guard who averaged more than 17 points per game during his sophomore season, has announced that he will return for his junior season. Two other starters – center Kennedy Meeks and small forward J.P. Tokoto – will also be back.
UNC also will welcome a three-player recruiting class that ESPN.com ranks the third-best in the country. Justin Jackson, a forward from Tomball, Texas, and Theo Pinson, a forward from Greensboro, will be expected to bolster the Tar Heels on the wing, which is where they lacked depth this season.
McAdoo, meanwhile, won’t be easily replaced. The most likely candidate to fill his vacancy in the starting lineup is Brice Johnson, a 6-foot-9 forward who averaged 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game during his sophomore season. Johnson has at times been UNC’s best interior offensive player, but his defense is lacking.
He made strides in that area last season – averaging 1.3 blocked shots per game – but Williams often bemoaned Johnson’s defensive shortcomings. Johnson suffered an ankle injury early in UNC’s season-ending 85-83 loss against Iowa State in the NCAA tournament. The injury forced him to miss most of the game.
“Brice is not a great defensive player by any means,” Williams said after that game. “But, boy, (he) protects a lot of things around the rim and blocks a lot of shots around the rim.”
With McAdoo gone, Johnson’s role will undoubtedly expand. UNC is likely to be more dependent on Isaiah Hicks, too. Hicks, a 6-foot-9 forward from Oxford, was considered the state’s top prospect before he arrived at UNC. He struggled to find his place during his freshman season, though, and averaged 1.2 points and one rebound per game.
Aside from McAdoo the only other scholarship player UNC loses is Leslie McDonald, the senior guard whose erratic play left Williams hoping for consistency that never came.
McAdoo decided to return to school after each of the past two seasons, even after he was projected as a potential lottery pick after his freshman season.
McAdoo during a recent interview said he enjoyed going to cultural events on campus and that he wanted to learn how to surf this summer. He said that he wasn’t bothered by the stigma that comes with remaining in school, though in a separate interview McAdoo’s father, Ronnie, expressed frustration with the scrutiny that has often surrounded McAdoo.
“Everybody wants instant gratification,” McAdoo said then. “I’m happy for all my friends that I knew that were able to pursue their dreams go to the NBA. But in my opinion, in my mind, I’m having the most fun and just being able to experience life.”
In choosing to enter the draft, though, McAdoo spoke of his own dream of playing in the NBA, and he said he would “do what I have to do” to make that dream a reality.
Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter
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