The 1-and-Done rule hasn’t just changed the way players, schools, and prospective NBA teams consider the jump from college to professional basketball. It has changed the way fans judge the talents of the players in college basketball. Every fan wants their school to recruit and sign the next 1-and-done sensation. And like everything else in society, those fans expect immediate results and stardom from that player.
But what happens when that player goes through some of the growing pains a freshman may encounter when making the jump to big time college basketball? What happens when the skills that player displayed in the modern, skill-deficient AAU circuit aren’t translating into immediate success in college ball? The fans and media label that player a bust. That’s what happens. When did becoming a solid and successful 4-year player become a bad thing?
Case in point would be North Carolina’s Junior Forward, James Michael McAdoo.
When McAdoo arrived in Chapel Hill, fresh off his McDonald’s All-American Game Co-MVP performance, the expectations were off the charts. The Tar Heel fans better enjoy his freshman year because he most definitely was going to be 1-and-done. A sure-fire Top 3 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, he was going to come out early with his teammates, Kendall Marshall, John Henson, and Harrison Barnes. Barnes, by the way, was another sure 1-and-done player who decided to stay a 2nd year.
McAdoo had all of the momentum coming out of his freshman season. He had shown flashes of brilliance at times during the season. But it was his performances in the post season that got the hype machine back in his corner. Due to injuries to his teammates he was given more minutes. And in the ACC and NCAA tournaments, he turned those minutes into perfect auditions for the NBA scouts as he showed his NBA-ready body and his athleticism turn in career highs in scoring and a double-digit scoring average in the NCAA tournament. He was certain to make the jump with his Lottery-bound teammates.
But something happened on the way to the Draft in New York City. James Michael McAdoo decided to come back to Chapel Hill for another year and put on the Tar Heel uniform for Roy Williams once again. With those lottery picks gone McAdoo would be the star player everybody had been waiting for since he stepped foot on campus.
Except he wasn’t. And by wasn’t, I mean he was not the second coming of Tyler Hansbrough, or Antawn Jamison, or Vince Carter. What he ended up being was a player who showed improvement year over year, but not in the dominant way the fans had come to expect from a guy billed as 1-and-done. McAdoo increased his scoring average from 6pts to 14pts, and doubled his rebounding output. He led the team in scoring in about a third of their games, and led the team in rebounding in more than half of the games. Again, he showed flashes of brilliance and Top 10-worthy plays. But the effort was not always there during an entire game.
Essentially he would be amazing on one play, and then turn around and look weak on another play. The end of his sophomore campaign was dominated more by the emergence of Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston than the coronation of McAdoo. After the season ended, fans expected McAdoo to leave, thought Hairston might as well, and knew Bullock would consider it. After seeing his draft projections go down from the previous year, fans figured McAdoo would come out then and cut his losses. But something happened again on the way to New York City. Bullock was the one who left early and McAdoo decided to come back and play for Ole’ Roy for another season.
In the eyes of the modern, 1-and-done fans, McAdoo was clearly a bust at this point. I mean if you’re coming back for your junior year you’ve failed. That sentiment is exactly what’s wrong with how the 1-and-done phenomenon has jaded the way fans look at players. Not long ago, fans celebrated when a future NBA talent announced he was returning to school. Now they look at it as an indictment of the kid’s talents. Since when did staying all 4 years become a bad thing? Inquiring minds like Tim Duncan, Tyler Hansbrough, and Christian Laettner would love to know the answer to that question.
As a fan, what do you care about more? How many star players you have in the NBA? Or how many games and championships your favorite team wins? Kentucky, for the 2nd straight year, has a roster full of 1-and-done players. Last year they lost in the NIT and this year has proven to be just as inconsistent. But they have plenty of future NBA players. James Michael McAdoo is the type of player every fan should hope comes to play at their favorite school.
This season for McAdoo is an example of what college basketball should be about. Once again, he has shown improvement in his game, particularly in his outside shot. He is handling the ball better when driving to the basket. And he is stronger finishing with the ball, as he showed with monstrous dunks in recent games. And, to Roy Williams’ delight, his defense has definitely improved. Most importantly, I would think in the eyes of NBA scouts as well, McAdoo has found that fire and his effort has been off the charts all year-long. During this week’s Roy Williams Radio Show, his coach remarked, “He may not be as effective at times, but we cannot say anything at all about how hard he is playing, how hard he is trying. He’s playing with a sense of urgency.” These were not comments normally directed towards McAdoo early in his career.
It became clear early in the year that the switch inside him turned on at some point during the Michigan State game. Playing on the road in as tough an environment as there is in college basketball, McAdoo was the driving voice on the court directing his teammates and showing them the effort needed to upset the top-ranked Spartans on their floor. When the team arrived back at the Dean Dome well after midnight and saw fans waiting to greet them, it was McAdoo that stepped up as the team leader and thanked the fans and the band for supporting them and welcoming them home.
Ever since then, he has continued to be that the leader. In every game you can see him directing his teammates, and after a loss he is the first to say the key to improving is buying into what Coach Williams is asking them to do and giving the effort needed to win. Are those the words of a prima donna 1-and-done guy? No, those are the words of a leader. Those are the words of a guy willing to put his team on his back for the stretch run. They are the words you expect from an upperclassman.
The other factor lost in this 1-and-done world is that the game of basketball is supposed to be fun. And finally, this year, McAdoo looks like he is having fun. You see it in his emotions. You see it when he’s high-fiving fans after a great play. And you see it rubbing off on his teammates. You know what? Maybe this kid actually enjoys being a college basketball player. How’s that for a throw-back concept? And as a fan, you should hope that guys want to stick around, put in the work, and build towards a national championship.
You should want the guys that play for the name on the front of the jersey. You should want guys like James Michael McAdoo on your team. Look around college basketball at players doing well this year. Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane, Florida’s Casey Prather, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, and Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early. What do they all have in common? Their teams are having great seasons and have a chance of making it far in the NCAA Tournament. They are all on the Wooden Award final watch list. Oh, and by the way, none of them are 1-and-done players. In fact, they are all seniors. They are trying to finish what they started and maybe, just maybe, James Michael McAdoo wants to do the same thing.
So at the end of this season will I be surprised if McAdoo decides to come back to UNC for his senior year? Nope. And Tar Heel fans should celebrate if he comes back. Because you know what’s wrong with a “4”-and-done player? Nothing. Nothing at all.