McAdoo should be able to move back away from the block this year.
McAdoo should be able to move back away from the block this year.
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Lucas: Mac's Back
Release: 06/27/2013

By Adam Lucas

On a day when many of his classmates were picking out gaudy suits and preparing to be the showcase attraction in tonight's NBA Draft, James Michael McAdoo showed up for work in a t-shirt and shorts.

In this case, "work" meant summer school classes and a weight room workout with Carolina strength coach Jonas Sahratian. For the second straight spring, McAdoo had the opportunity to consider turning pro. And for the second straight spring, he chose to return to Chapel Hill.

"I still have some areas of improvement I want to work on," McAdoo said Thursday afternoon. "I could've done that pre-draft, but I'd much rather do it here, as a Tar Heel."

That means that McAdoo's plans for draft night include a probable trip to the gym for an extra workout rather than watching the event live. The rising junior, who says he usually watches the draft, has no plans to view it this year.

The extra work is part of an offseason plan that is different from last summer, when McAdoo had plenty of buzz from a stellar NCAA Tournament performance as a freshman.

"Last year, I accepted those expectations but I didn't really do anything with them," McAdoo says. "I didn't work as hard as I should have in the offseason. I just felt like the success at the end of the year would carry over. Now I realize what needs to be done and what I need to improve on, regardless of the expectations."

It will be interesting to see what those outside expectations--which Roy Williams constantly advises his players to avoid--become. It's not as though McAdoo had a bad sophomore year, and he earned second-team All-ACC honors.

In the nine-season Williams era prior to this summer, sixteen Tar Heels have made at least second-team All-ACC and been eligible to return to school the next year. Only seven of them have returned, and three of those instances belong to one player--Tyler Hansbrough.

After finishing second on the team in scoring (14.4 points per game) and leading the team in rebounding (7.3 rebounds per game), McAdoo is just the fourth Tar Heel in the Williams era to rank in the top two in those categories and return to school the next season. All three of the others have their jersey in the Smith Center rafters: Tyler Zeller, Hansbrough and Sean May.

Each added a new element to their games by returning to school. Zeller got much stronger in Chapel Hill. Hansbrough turned into a reliable outside shooter. May's post moves became deadly and his conditioning improved markedly.

So what does McAdoo hope to improve as he eyes the 2013-14 campaign? "Almost everything, really."

The Norfolk native is disappointed in his sophomore year free throw shooting; he had 60 more attempts than anyone else on the roster, but hit just 57.8 percent of them. That's down from 63.8 percent as a freshman, and "That's not me," McAdoo says. "That's something I'm working on. I'm also working on being a better low post scorer. Getting in the gym and getting better is what it comes down to."

It's a worthwhile goal to improve his scoring in the paint, but it's also possible he won't be as needed on that area of the floor this season. The Tar Heels have added freshmen Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks ("His motor has impressed me," Marcus Paige said Thursday of Hicks), and it's unlikely McAdoo will have to spend much time at center this season, as he did last year.

The shift to the post as a sophomore had both mental and physical repercussions. Mentally, McAdoo was adjusting to a completely new position, one for which he had no frame of reference. Physically, he spent much of the season nursing an injured back, a byproduct of the regular pounding that goes on in the post in ACC games.

He's healthier now, and he has an outlook that's fairly rare in the modern era of college basketball.

"I want to master the college game," he says, "before I take the next step."

Others are ready to take that next step tonight. You'll find McAdoo in the gym.

Adam Lucas is the publisher of Tar Heel Monthly.


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