James Michael McAdoo took the bull by the horns and rode it all weekend long.
The Tar Heels sophomore owned opening weekend and is quickly showing his worth as a leader for UNC and as a future lottery pick. What was once an incomplete game, lacking offensive efficiency in the post, is quickly rounding into form.
The McAdoo we were all hoping for has arrived.
I won't deny the fact I was very critical of the young star over the summer. I felt expectations were way too high for someone that had yet to show dominance on the offensive side of the ball. I knew he could become the player everyone expected—I just didn't see it happening this season.
Sure, there were the dunks and the obvious nose for the ball on defense. But last season many of his shots were blocked, and he just never looked comfortable working the post.
There wasn't much of a showing at the NC Pro-Am, and he missed too many shots in the scrimmage and exhibition for my taste. I just wasn't sold.
Then the season opened up on Friday, and McAdoo opened up a big ol' can of you-know-what.
Folks will want to harp on his 26 points and 14 boards against Gardner-Webb. That's the stat-driven world we live in.
But that wasn't the game that impressed me the most.
McAdoo's all-around game was there. He had one steal, one block and two assists to go with his double-double. But he also had four turnovers, was 6-of-11 from the line and took some horrible shots.
As I said in my last piece, if a player is going to take 20 shots, he needs to be more selective and make sure he has the best shot on the floor.
Against FAU, he did just that.
McAdoo still took 17 shots in that game, but I can't complain about a single attempt he made. His shots were calculated, not wasting a single attempt on a bad look. And he scored in a variety of ways.
His staple turnaround jumper was falling, he hit a 16-footer on the baseline and broke out a superb spin move under the basket for a reverse dunk. He was also finally was able to execute on an alley oop.
McAdoo and Marcus Paige had timing issues in their earlier attempts. Hopefully that has been fixed, and we'll see more back-door lobs getting thrown down by the Mac.
He finished with 11 boards in that game, which is a very welcome surprise.
McAdoo has become a little more physical and has done a much better job of boxing out his opponents. He has always shown a propensity to use his athleticism in order to crash the boards. With the addition of physicality, he is becoming more complete on that end, too.
His post game and physicality were my main areas of concern, heading into the season. Now I feel much better about that aspect of his game.
Will McAdoo End Up the National Player of the Year?
Couple those new additions with his awareness to draw the charge, make the right pass and play the passing lanes, and we have ourselves a complete player.
FAU's Cavon Baker looked like he would have an easy score in transition before McAdoo slid in and took the charge. That's the kind of stuff I love seeing—especially on transition defense. It really shows a player's basketball IQ and toughness.
On multiple occasions McAdoo was able to feed someone else when he didn't have an open shot, and he dished out some really nice passes—again, showing off his IQ.
And if you don't know about his ability as a burglar on the defensive end of the floor, then you have obviously been locked in a box for the last year. The way he baits his opponents in the passing lane is exactly why I started calling him "The Angler" last season.
Things haven't changed, and he's still taking steals coast-to-coast for an authoritative jam—or pushing it ahead to Brice Johnson for the same happy ending, as he did on Sunday.
I'm still waiting to see what he does against some much more talented opponents, but we will find out soon enough.
The Tar Heels have Long Beach State on Friday, and I have a feeling they will be playing Marquette in the Maui Invitational semifinals.
James Michael McAdoo is on his way, and I'd love to see more of the player I saw on Sunday. Because of his wise shot selections and overall awareness, more Tar Heels were able to get in a rhythm. The team simply played better as a whole.
And McAdoo was still able to prove he is the one to stop—and that his game is more complete than I once expected.