PORTLAND, ORE. -- James McAdoo, one of the Class of 2011’s most NBA-ready prospects, also happens to be one of its most overlooked. How bad is it? He still has trouble convincing his high school friends how good he is.
A 6-9, 220 pound forward from Norfolk, Va., who has committed to play basketball at North Carolina next season, McAdoo is in Portland to compete in Saturday’s Nike Hoop Summit. He’s fresh off scoring 17 points in last week’s McDonald’s All-American Game, where he won co-MVP honors along with Somerdale, N.J., forward Michael Gilchrist. Despite taking home the hardware, he said his friends back home haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that he’s on the same level as Gilchrist, whose been nationally known for years, or Winter Park, Fla., guard Austin Rivers, son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
"Even my friends love these guys like Rivers and Gilchrist," McAdoo joked on Thursday after an evening Hoop Summit practice at the Portland Trail Blazers practice facility. "I’m like, ‘These [players] are just my friends, hop off their nuts.’"
While McAdoo might not yet have the national name recognition of Gilchrist or Rivers, or the hype factor of 6-10 Chicago forward Anthony Davis, the Class of 2011’s top overall prospect, there are plenty of reasons his friends back home, and NBA observers, should be watching him carefully. DraftExpress.com recently placed him in the No. 4 spot in its 2012 NBA Draft and there is a lot to like.
While McAdoo said that he played all five positions at some point in high school, he translates as an inside-out power forward on the NBA level. His frame is big and solid for his age – he just turned 18 – but there’s certainly room for him to add additional weight. McAdoo is most comfortable facing the basket, but unlike many stretch forwards he rarely floats on the perimeter. He can handle the ball, get his own shot in the mid-range, has a solid first step and good body control to get to the basket plus the strength to finish in traffic. His rebounding instincts, timing and motor are very good, and he tucked home a number of putbacks from the weakside during a brief Thursday night scrimmage. Defensively, he moves laterally on the perimeter well, maintains contact in the post and, most of all, is under control and coordinated in a way that many players who are his size at his age aren’t. There’s a smoothness factor on both ends, despite his willingness to do the dirty work.
"A lot of people call me a hybrid four," McAdoo said, shaking his head. "But I don’t know. Maybe I’ll become someone like a Zach Randolph or something. A big banger who can still shoot the ball. Or like a Marvin Williams, a guy who is a 3/4. Hopefully I can just improve my game, get bigger, gain some weight and just really come into my own … I don’t want to get stuck underneath the basket, though. I want to be able to have a multi-dimensional game. I think that can make me a better sell to an NBA team. … I have the ability to kick it into overdrive and really show out."
Multi-dimensional is en vogue in the NBA these days and, assessing his current package of skills, it’s fair to call McAdoo the most polished big man in the 2011 class right now. He also doesn’t lack for confidence. Asked what he hoped an NBA scout that sees him play this week would report back to their GMs, McAdoo smiled. "Hopefully he says ‘This cat McAdoo is the real deal.’
"With me, I don’t think you have any risks. A lot of guys here could be NBA MVP or they could also fall off the map just because you don’t really know with that transition to the college or the NBA. But I think with me, I’m a safe pick. I think I can be a franchise player, I can carry a team. I have that mental toughness and I’m a baller. My last name is McAdoo so you already know what you’re getting with that."
So, about that last name. While it’s been widely reported that Basketball Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo is James’ uncle, the younger McAdoo says the relationship isn’t that simple. "People always think Bob is my dad. I call him my uncle. He’s really like my, I don’t know, my dad’s great-great-great grandfather and his great-grandfather are like brothers, so I don’t know what makes us. We’ve got a last name. All McAdoos are family."
Along with his last name and his family’s ties to the Chapel Hill area come great expectations for next season. McAdoo already has plans to report for summer pickup ball on June 12 and is anxious to show what he’s about to Tar Heels fans. "I'm a consistent presence on the floor that can score the ball as well as defend and hopefully be a stat sheet stuffer. … My goal for college is to average 20 and 10 as a freshman. No one ever does that. They might average 20 but they can never get 10 rebounds."
McAdoo is right: no one ever does that. Basketball-Reference shows just three players who have averaged 20 and 10 as a freshman in the last decade -- Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley and Kris Humphries -- and none played in the ACC. All three, interestingly, happen to be Hoop Summit alumni and impact players on the next level. This is the time to dream big.
Being around so many pros during Carolina’s summer runs, McAdoo admitted, has him thinking about that next level too. "Just seeing all the pro guys that came back, definitely made it real to me. They put so many guys in the NBA. Roy Williams does a great job of developing his players, the system they play is like a pro system. It’s definitely my dream, it’s what I put all these hours in for. Sure, a free education and attending North Carolina is a dream, but that next stepping stone would be to play professionally."
McAdoo said the high school showcase event circuit has made that NBA dream feel a lot more real. At least when he’s not at home. "Last week at the McDonald’s All-American game, they said 70 percent of guys that play in that game go on to play in the NBA," McAdoo said. "Here I am getting the co-MVP. You try not to think about [the NBA] too much. Sure, when your mom yells at you for not taking out the garbage, you’re like, ‘Come on, mom, cut me some slack. I did just get co-MVP.’"
As for finally getting the recognition he feels he deserves from his friends? That’s coming too. "My phone did blow up [after the McDonald’s game]. I actually had to get another phone, it’s crazy. So many people were calling me and texting me, I just shut that phone off and use this other phone now. It’s cool. I like it. It’s a lifestyle I could get used to living."