Editor's Note: In the buildup to Midnight Madness, we are taking an in-depth look at ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi's top five seeds in a series called Countdown To Madness. In addition to the Insider pieces, Eamonn Brennan will offer Three Big Things about each team, and we'll have Five Questions with a player or coach from each squad.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- It was almost like watching two different players last season: the tentative James Michael McAdoo who began his North Carolina career so inconsistently that he passed up dunks and looked a little lost; and the confident freshman forward who leapt into the spotlight during March and averaged 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds as a part-time starter over his final seven games.
McAdoo wowed scouts so much during the postseason that he briefly pondered an early jump to the NBA. Instead, the sophomore returns as the Tar Heels’ most experienced player in the post, and will be a key go-to guy on a team that lost four starters to the pros.
UNC’s players typically are not available for interviews this time of year, but McAdoo spoke to reporters over the summer about last season and the upcoming one.
Q: Will it be a dramatic shift, moving from the bench to become a key figure on the team?
A: I think so. I think I’m ready for it, though. Coach [Roy Williams] brought me along at the pace he wanted to, and I feel like I was able to make strides at the end of the year, and I feel like my confidence is where I want it to be. My teammates are going to help me, and the coaching staff is going to help me make that jump once the season starts.
Q: How do you think you progressed the most last season?
A: I think it was just my consistency. I feel like at the beginning of the year, I was really lackadaisical in my approach to the game. And mentally, I feel like I was out of it, I didn’t really tell myself that this team needed me. But as the year went on, I would talk to Coach [Williams], and talk to the other coaches, and I realized that this team really did need me, and I needed to step up my responses. Just because I’m a freshman didn’t mean I could just sit back and respond when I wanted to -- they needed me every day.
Q: Where did the "lackadaisical" approach come from?
A: I don’t know. It’s college, you know how that is. It’s a whole other atmosphere. My mom and dad and sister weren’t here, and you’ve got to grow up quick, especially if you want to play D-I basketball at UNC. So I feel like I really lost my focus, lost who I was. But I feel like [when] I was finally able to just make up my mind and do what I know I’m capable of doing, it finally showed up on the basketball court.
Q: What did the coaches tell you to concentrate on during the offseason?
A: Quite a few things. Mainly just being in the weight room, being consistent in there, being the best in there, just working on my conditioning -- as well as learning different spots on the basketball court and getting more comfortable with the ball in my hands, as well as defensively, getting a lot quicker.
Q: How close were you to leaving early for the NBA?
A: I don’t know if I was ever "close." It was something I definitely thought about and prayed about. It was a decision that everybody dreams about, as a basketball player. But in the end, this was the right decision, to come back.