James Michael McAdoo calls it a UNC career, enters NBA Draft

Apr. 03, 2014 @ 10:23 PM

On the day of the 2013 NBA Draft, North Carolina power forward James Michael McAdoo was asked about his decision to return to school for his junior year instead of being a likely first-round pick that night.

“For me the biggest thing was stepping back and looking at the kind of player I want to be when I get ready to make that decision to go to the next level, and know that I still have some areas of improvement that I want to work on,” McAdoo said. “And I could have done that in the NBA, but I’d much rather do it here.”

McAdoo mentioned working on his low-post game and ballhandling, getting stronger and rehabbing his injured back. Evidently, McAdoo now feels he’s ready.

The 6-9 junior announced Thursday that he will forego his senior season and enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

“I just feel I am ready to play at the next level and excited about that challenge,” McAdoo said in a statement. “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.”

McAdoo averaged 14.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in his two seasons as a starter, both times earning second-team all-ACC honors. But while his production has been consistent, his draft stock has slipped considerably.

The 2009 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (joining former Tar Heels Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and Sean May), McAdoo was a potential lottery pick after his freshman year, when he came on strong during the postseason after power forward John Henson was injured.

After his sophomore year — his first as a starter — McAdoo was still projected to go between 19th and 24th in mock drafts by CBS Sports, DraftExpress and NBADraft.net. Once again, McAdoo decided to come back to school, but his projections continued to slip as it became clear — fair or not — that he would not fulfill the outsized expectations with which he entered school.

On Thursday, mock drafts on those three web sites have him selected in the latter half of the second round, between 47th and 55th. Jeff McInnis in 1996 was the last underclassman to leave UNC early and not be a first-round pick.

UNC coach Roy Williams usually recommends that his players stay in school if they’re not expected to get the guaranteed contract that comes with being selected in the first round, and he expressed concern when junior Reggie Bullock left last season as a borderline first-round pick.

But Bullock ended up being picked 25th by the Clippers after a series of excellent pre-draft workouts, and Williams said he supported McAdoo “100 percent with his decision.”

“I am extremely happy for James Michael, but at the same time I am sad for me because I won’t get a chance to coach that youngster again,” Williams said in a statement. “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. Everyone connected to our program has enjoyed getting to know him. He’s been extremely important to North Carolina Basketball and Roy Williams.”

McAdoo, who said he plans to come back and finish his degree, becomes the 14th Tar Heel in 10 seasons to go pro before his senior year.

UNC will lose two starters — McAdoo and senior shooting guard Leslie McDonald — from the 2013-14 team which finished tied for third in the ACC and lost in the Round of 32 as a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Tar Heels will add three McDonald’s All-Americans, point guard Joel Berry and wings Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson. McAdoo’s departure could allow sophomore forward Brice Johnson (10.3 points, 6.1 rebounds) to slide into the starting lineup next season. It could also mean more minutes for Oxford native Isaiah Hicks (1.2 points, 1.0 rebounds), a 2013 McDonald’s All-American who played out of position at small forward during his first year and never seemed comfortable.

McAdoo said last year that during the draft, he would be working out instead of watching his peers get picked.

“On the one hand I’m happy for them; on the other hand that’s their life,” McAdoo said. “I usually watch it but not this year. I’ll probably be in the gym.”

McAdoo will certainly be much more invested in the festivities this time.