Fowler

UNC recruit McAdoo facing a dilemma

Staff WriterJune 5, 2010 

James McAdoo has a decision to make. It's the familiar "stay-or-go" quandary that faces many basketball players, but this time it comes with a twist.

McAdoo is in high school.

Ronnie McAdoo is James' father (and a second cousin of Hall of Famer and former UNC star Bob McAdoo). His son is an "excellent" student, Ronnie said Friday, and already has good standardized test scores. James McAdoo would need to take only one online course this summer to be eligible to enroll at North Carolina in August and play this season.

Whether his son decides to do this, Ronnie McAdoo said, likely won't happen until mid-July, once James McAdoo gets back to his home in Norfolk, Va., after playing in an international basketball tournament that ends July 11.

So should McAdoo stay or go?

I think he should do what he wants.

I don't pretend to know what's best for this 17-year-old kid. I've known 16-year-olds who handled the rigors of being a college freshman just fine and 25-year-olds who still act like they're in sixth grade.

If McAdoo takes the online course and enrolls early, he would skip his high school senior year entirely. He would also help fill a gap at power forward left by the sudden departure of the Wear twins, David and Travis, who left Chapel Hill in May with about as much warning as the Baltimore Colts gave when they left for Indianapolis.

McAdoo is a 6-foot-8, 215-pound power forward rated among the top 10 players in America in the class of 2011. Leaving high school early wouldn't mean McAdoo could get to the NBA any quicker. Because of his birthdate, the first draft he's eligible for will be in 2012.

McAdoo wouldn't be eligible for a "one-and-done" career at Chapel Hill if he leaves now. He'd need to stay at least two seasons.

"Let me make this clear," Ronnie McAdoo said. "The NBA has nothing to do with this. That's not even being considered. It's the fact that the opportunity is available. Carolina is short at power forward. At least for Mom and Dad, our intentions would be that he be there for four years."

Well, I don't know about that, but I do know that college is different for everyone.

Brad Daugherty skipped a grade in elementary school and entered North Carolina at age 16. It turned out all right for him. Mike Gminski did almost exactly what McAdoo is considering - he compressed four high school years into three and entered Duke at age 17. It turned out all right for Gminski, too.

"The difference is I had made that decision by my sophomore year," Gminski said Friday. "It wasn't something thrown together at the last second. I played in a weak league and averaged 42 points per game as a junior. I thought I was ready for college."

Gminski said that he never regretted the decision.

So should McAdoo stay or go? Said Gminski: "Physically, he's probably ready to compete. The key thing is emotionally and academically whether he's ready to make the leap. That's the most important question he has to ask himself."

I'm glad that the NCAA hasn't over-legislated this like it has so many other things. If a kid can get through high school in three years and wants to go to college early, more power to him.

However, the risks are obvious.

You don't want to stick around high school just to go to the senior prom, of course. But to miss your senior basketball season? To miss out on just hanging out with your buddies? That's something you never get back.

"That would be tough, for sure," Ronnie McAdoo said, adding that he and his wife would also have a hard time sending their son away to school a year earlier than planned. "But my family is from Mebane, so he'd have family almost right there. And he's only 31/2 hours from us. If that's what is best for him, then Mom and Dad will support him 100 percent."

An early entry would be far from unprecedented.

Duke's Andre Dawkins came to the Blue Devils a year early and was a reserve guard on the 2010 NCAA men's basketball championship team, although he was re-classified and thus gave up only a planned "fifth year." N.C. State recruit Joseph Uchebo was once in the class of 2012, but has now moved up to the class of 2011.

To some longtime North Carolina fans, if James McAdoo comes early and eventually stays a year longer than he would have otherwise, it would be karma.

Bob McAdoo was the Tar Heels' first player to ever leave college early. He led the Tar Heels to the 1972 Final Four as a junior-college transfer and then bolted for the NBA with coach Dean Smith's blessing. Key factor: McAdoo knew he could make $100,000 as an NBA rookie. His father, a fine carpenter, had made $10,000 the year before.

Bob McAdoo once told me he didn't feel comfortable coming to Chapel Hill for several years after that because some people treated him poorly, believing he might have cost the Tar Heels another Final Four berth in 1973.

So now here's another McAdoo with another "stay-or-go" decision.

Staff writer Robbi Pickeral contributed to this article.

sfowler@charlotteobserver.com or 704-358-5140

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