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April 9, 2012

McAdoo can leave legacy

James Michael McAdoo has made the decision to return for his sophomore year, almost certainly his final season at UNC.

Now he has one more critical decision to make. Does he want to be Antawn Jamison or Ed Davis.

Here is the difference:

Jamison returned for his junior season after two spectacular years at Carolina. When he came back, he took his 6-9 frame and quickness and became an even greater terror for opposing defenses, leading UNC to a second straight Final Four and becoming the consensus national player of the year in the process.

Davis provided some help in the run to the national championship in 2009 as a freshman and seemed like a good guy and terrific prospect for the future.

But for some reason, Davis appeared to regret his decision to stay. He carried the team early, but his attitude seemed to sour. Then he got hurt and his career ended when he did not return and declared for the draft.

Davis may be a wonderful person. Personally, I really do not know. But I know he did not attack the opportunity that returning provided him.

Yes, basketball is a business. But at Carolina it is also a culture, one in which the great players leave a legacy of superior play. UNC cannot win the national championship every year, so it's not fair to judge a team or any single player with that measuring tape.

Here is what next year gives McAdoo: an opportunity to put the team on his back and carry it as far as it will go, take his draft status to the upper echelon and leave a legacy of being the great young man and superb player that I believe he is.

People who scoffed at McAdoo earlier this year do not have a clue. This youngster has a chance to be the player of the year in the country next season if he can stay healthy (a dubious proposition for Carolina ballplayers of late). He can dazzle the nation with his speed, quickness and beautiful moves.

He has all of this within him. I'll guarantee you Roy Williams believes he does.

He will not have Kendall Marshall, which is a shame from a selfish point of view. Marshall will always be one of my favorites, along many different players from Duke and Carolina.

We are so blessed to have outstanding young basketball players do their undergraduate work at Duke or Carolina before leaping to the National Basketball Association.

And all of those who turn pro, I wish them and their families the best.

The key for McAdoo is he has to be certain this is where he wants to be and then to put all of his heart and soul into making himself a great Tar Heel, one who is capable of having his jersey hanging from the rafters - on the front row next to Tyler Hansbrough.

This young man can do it. But he has to want to do it. He has to want to work his butt off this summer in preparation. He has to mature as most sophomores do from their freshman years.

If he does all of this and has the good fortune to stay healthy, he is capable of doing amazing things next season.

He will have help, too.

Dexter Strickland will return. He will work on his point guard skills if he has healed by this summer. Leslie McDonald should be ready to explode after sitting out this past season with an injury.

Leslie is far more athletic than many people believe, at least that is the sense I get.

Reggie Bullock is going to be a rock for this team. Reggie is a fine young man who loves Carolina from the bottom of his heart. He's done whatever Williams has asked so far, and I think the potential for him to be great is there. He made himself a complete player this past season. Now he must build on that and do it all fluidly and consistently. This summer is critical for him.

Then there is P.J. Hairston. Who knows what the greater public thinks. Many may have written him off after a subpar season shooting, but similar people did that with Donald Williams and he was the Final Four Most Outstanding Player the next season.

A team needs an edge, and Hairston will bring that, but he also has to bring more consistency to his game. Once again, summer presents an opportunity to grow, mature and learn.

The question right now is will Carolina land Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi, a 6-9, 240-pound senior who has been on a national championship team. He gets to leave and play right away because Connecticut's NCAA sanctions forbid the Huskies to play in the 2013 postseason. So Oriakhi has chosen to leave.

He has not been a big scorer. He averaged 4.8 rebounds and 6.7 points. But who knows, he may blossom in Williams' system. He certainly should be the kind of player who can be an enforcer who will help protect McAdoo.

The Tar Heels cannot allow opponents to just savage McAdoo in hopes of diminishing his quickness and skill.

Freshman Joel James, 6-11, was named the MVP of a recent all-star game after grabbing 12 rebounds and scoring 10 points.

He is somewhere between 6-10 and 6-11. He once weighed at least 280 pounds, but he has lost more than 50 pounds, and if you watch him on video, he's an outstanding athlete. His skills will need polishing, but that could mean UNC might have him for three or four years.

"I was dedicated to doing it," James said of losing the weight. "That's a running school and I have to get in shape to go there."

With McAdoo as the centerpiece, the 2013 Tar Heels could be much, much better than what outsiders are thinking.


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