Basketball - INACTIVE

Ex-UNC star Rashad McCants says relationship with school, coach Roy Williams no longer exists

North Carolina’s Rashad McCants celebrates the Tar Heels’ victory over Illinois in the NCAA championship game in St. Louis in 2005.
North Carolina’s Rashad McCants celebrates the Tar Heels’ victory over Illinois in the NCAA championship game in St. Louis in 2005.

Former North Carolina men’s basketball star Rashad McCants says he has no relationship with UNC or coach Roy Williams – and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

In 2014, McCants alleged that the university kept him eligible through fake classes and minimal attendance, and he said his former coach was complicit with the scheme. Williams has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing, but McCants has stuck to his claims.

“The things he’s done and said and denied, I just can’t respect,” said McCants, who played for Williams for two seasons. “As a coach, he’s a great coach, and he’s deserving of the Hall of Fame and everything that’s coming to him. But as a man, I don’t have anything to say.”

Through a spokesman, Williams declined comment.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams talks about the allegations against UNC during press conference Sunday, April 2, 2017, before the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship national championship game at the University of Phoenix Stadium

McCants, who played four seasons in the NBA, averaged 17.6 points through his three-year college career and helped lead the Tar Heels to a national championship in 2005. But after his public accusations, the Asheville native said he hasn’t been back to his home state in years and has no connection with the university.

“Right now,” he said, “my name probably is a guy that’s trying to ruin North Carolina.”

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North Carolina coach Roy Williams has a few words for former Tar Heels star Rashad McCants in a loss at Duke in 2005. Ethan Hyman Ethan Hyman

McCants admits he would have approached his collegiate career differently if given the chance, bringing attention to academic problems sooner and seeking solutions internally. Had he done so, the former NCAA champion says he might have had a better rapport with the public and with NBA executives – and perhaps changed the outlook of his career.

After the Minnesota Timberwolves picked him No. 14 overall in the 2005 NBA draft, McCants averaged 10 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting through four seasons. But the Timberwolves unloaded the former lottery pick to Sacramento in 2009.

That’s when he says the calls stopped coming.

“I’ve been told, numerous conversations and numerous sources, that I’ve been blackballed,” McCants said. “And it’s just the way the league is sometimes. When one person who is a higher-up, Hall of Famer, says don’t touch him, they won’t. And that’s just how it is.”

Kenneth Wainstein discusses the lack of evidence found in his investigation regarding UNC basketball player Rashad McCants.

Two failed stints in the NBA Development League and a handful of international stops have been his only options. The UNC allegations haven’t helped, nor has his reputation as a bad locker room presence. But McCants’ biggest regret was his highly-publicized relationship with reality TV star Khloe Kardashian late in his career, which he said gave people an opportunity to doubt his commitment to the NBA.

“Without that situation in play, I’m a $60-70 million player,” McCants said. “Easily.”

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Rashad McCants, playing for the Sacramento Kings in 2009, walks off the floor in Charlotte during his final season in the NBA. JEFF SINER JEFF SINER - jsiner@charlotteobs

Instead, McCants will try for a fresh start this June in the BIG3 – a new three-on-three league featuring former NBA players. The league’s 10-city tour starts in Brooklyn, N.Y., but the second stop comes on July 2 at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.

But McCants, the top pick in the eight-team league, insists this isn’t a springboard to return to the NBA.

“At 32 years old, with seven years being unacknowledged at all, it’s not gonna be my fight to get back to a place that doesn’t want me,” he said. “To be picked No. 1 in the BIG3, it feels like home.”

For the North Carolina native, it’s as close as he might get.

C Jackson Cowart: 503-964-1999, jcowart@charlotteobserver.com, @CJacksonCowart

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