C.J. McCollum is more than just a basketball player

USA TODAY Sports

McCollum recently graduated from Lehigh and is an accomplished writer. Next, he'll be writing his own history as a member of the Trail Blazers.

Too many student-athletes might treat college as just another stepping stone in their journey to becoming a professional basketball player. With millions of dollars potentially awaiting high-caliber talent, it's not tough to see why highly regarded prospects might leave campus after just a year or two.

C.J. McCollum (scouting report) is a different kind of guy. He took full advantage of his full-ride scholarship to Lehigh University.

McCollum, who recently graduated with a journalism degree, is an accomplished writer at the age of 21. His first piece on a national stage was a column he wrote for Sporting News on why he was electing to forgo the NBA Draft last summer and return to Lehigh for his senior year. He addressed his motivations and gave some insight into his personal family situation and why he was turning down the money. That is something few fans get to see.

To one-up himself, McCollum recently wrote the 'Point After' column for Sports Illustrated. The column details his journey to the NBA Draft, a journey that ended Thursday night when he was selected No. 10 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. McCollum is self-aware enough to know this is only his first step on what could be a long career in the NBA.

Did we mention McCollum is even an enlightened tweeter? What's not to like?

This past season at Lehigh, McCollum became the Patriot League's all-time leading scorer. As a freshman he was named as an honorable mention to the All-American Team after averaging 19 points and five rebounds. Playing at a smaller school, though, it was tough for him to receive much media attention.

That changed during his junior campaign. After averaging nearly 22 points and eight rebounds a night, McCollum and Lehigh stunned the No. 2 seed Duke Blue Devils in the opening round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament with a 75-70 win. He had 30 points in the win, bursting onto the national scene as one of the best mid-major players in the nation.

McCollum was closing out his career in a big way before tragedy struck. On January 5, McCollum broke his left foot and missed the remainder of the season. He was the nation's leading scorer at the time with upwards of 25.7 points per game, and he was in the running to win the Wooden Award, which is given to the nation's best player.

McCollum's left foot is now fully healed, and he proved in workouts he was worthy of being a lottery selection. The Blazers decided they couldn't pass up on his talent.

His greatest ability is scoring. His numbers in college speak for themselves, and he should see plenty of early minutes in the NBA as a quick-hitting scoring option. What will determine McCollum's true potential at the next level will be his ability to both defend and score without the ball in his hands.

Regardless of whatever his future holds in Portland, C.J. McCollum has accomplished more than most the past four years. McCollum honored his pledge to Lehigh and earned his degree. That should speak volumes about him as a person, both on and off the court.

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