CHICAGO — In the same week at the start of April, James Michael McAdoo became a married man and a working man. His friends wondered why all this change all of a sudden.
“People said, ‘Aw, you’re rushing into everything!’ but these are things I’d thought about for a long time.” McAdoo, the former North Carolina center-forward, described Friday at the NBA Draft Combine.
McAdoo announced April 3 he was turning pro with a season left of college eligibility. In the same 48-hour period he married his girlfriend, a Tar Heels volleyball player.
McAdoo said there was no special link between those two choices. It was simply conviction: He knew he loved this woman and felt just as strongly he’s ready to play in the NBA.
There would not be universal agreement on the NBA call. By McAdoo’s own description, he could go anywhere from late in the first round to not being drafted at all June 26.
He was a heralded high school recruit who shared the Most Outstanding Player award with Anthony Davis at the Jordan Brand Classic in Charlotte. Davis went on to be the NBA’s top pick in 2012. McAdoo went on to be a good, but never great, college big man.
McAdoo assumed playing three college seasons would include at least one national championship. But things kept happening, whether it was an injury to point guard Kendall Marshall or P.J. Hairston losing his college eligibility after accepting improper use of a rental car.
“Just the amount of adversity – not just what I faced, but what our team faced,” McAdoo said, when asked what he’ll remember most. “Losing Kendall late in the season and all the off-court drama – in the classrooms and guys getting in trouble. That really affects teams.
“I feel like it was my responsibility to carry this team my sophomore and junior years. To really carry the load.”
Hairston could have shared that burden last season had he avoided NCAA sanctions. McAdoo doesn’t begrudge Hairston for what happened, in part because it forced his former teammate to self-evaluate.
“He made a decision and that decision had consequences. I think those consequences forced him to grow up,” McAdoo said. “At Chapel Hill, we were essentially still kids. He had a great year in the D-League. He had to become more responsible.”
McAdoo said his own choice to pass on his senior season at North Carolina was a gut feeling – that he was confident in his abilities regardless of others’ assessments of his market value.
“It was a decision I prayed about. It came down to what do I want to do?’ McAdoo said. “And that was to play in the NBA. I had three great years at Carolina. I learned a lot and I made lasting connections.”
He’s 35 credit hours short of completing his degree (American History major, Sociology minor). He’s begun interviewing with potential employers; meeting in Chicago with the Indiana Pacers, Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic. (McAdoo said he hasn’t heard from the Charlotte Bobcats so far).
He anticipates playing both power forward and small forward in the NBA. He’s not particularly tall for an NBA frontcourt player (just short of 6-foot-9), but his wingspan exceeds seven feet.
With that length, McAdoo believes he can build an NBA career on defense.
“I’ll do whatever they need me to do at the offensive end,” McAdoo said, “but I really look at myself as a lock-down defender who’ll get you some rebounds”
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell