North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo and Joel James both had a serious reality check in 2012-13, as they fell short of expectations. But acknowledging areas of weakness is a part of growing up as an athlete.
That's exactly what they did.
In interviews with Go Heels TV this summer, McAdoo and James owned up to their deficiencies and talked about their preparation for UNC's upcoming season.
What goes on between players' ears separates mere talents from the truly great ones, and these two Tar Heels are ready to dominate.
Statistically, James Michael McAdoo had a fantastic sophomore campaign. He led the team in steals (1.5) and rebounds (7.3). He was second in points per game (14.4). However, he never really showed much development from his freshman season.
He is a superior athlete, but that will only get McAdoo so far—especially after becoming the opposing defense's primary concern. Beating guys off the dribble led to tough shots over double- and triple-teams.
That had a lot to do with his disappointing shooting percentage—not to mention his team-leading 2.7 turnovers per contest.
It appeared McAdoo thought he could get by without playing with his back to the basket. The only post move he brought to the table with any consistency was a turnaround jumper.
The offseason should always be about expanding your game. But sometimes media hype can play a role in altering a player's mindset.
McAdoo found that out firsthand.
Last year, I accepted those expectations but I didn't really do anything with them. 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.
Now, he has it.
Michael Jordan wasn't the greatest player to hit the floor because of his natural gifts. Jordan was the greatest because he never stopped expanding his game—even as a professional.
We see that with LeBron James today.
McAdoo admitted his 57.8 percent free-throw shooting was a disappointment. "That's not me," he said. "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."
That should be music to the ears of Tar Heel fans.
More music comes in the tune of a 6'10", 280-pound man-child named Joel James. As a freshman, the center looked lost at times, dropped post feeds and was prone to silly mental mistakes.
Because of those deficiencies, James only saw 9.4 minutes of action per game—despite the Tar Heels' overwhelming need for a center that can defend and score.
Both of which James is perfectly capable of doing.
He has an incredibly soft shooting touch for a big man, showing off a solid hook and jumper during his limited time on the floor. He was the most effective true center on the offensive end for the Tar Heels, finishing the season 30-of-58 from the floor.
On defense, James improved. He reduced the personal fouls. He learned to use his body to alter shots, rather than reaching and grabbing.
He was also the most effective rebounder at the position, hauling in one board every 3.9 minutes.
Even with his gradual progression, there was something missing with Joel James. He never seemed to have the confidence a player with his size and talent should have.
That was a focal point in his interview with Go Heels TV: "You’re always harder on yourself. I feel like I was frustrated. Just a lot of anger, a lot of frustration upon myself, knowing I could do a lot more."
You could see that in his body language whenever he made a mistake. He looked like a bully just jacked his lunch money.
Confidence is a huge part of the game. Without it—well—I'll let James explain.
“Have you ever heard the saying. ‘Confidence is like deodorant; if you don’t have it on, you stink?’” James said. “That’s what it is."
This summer, James has been working on building that confidence with former Tar Heel posts Marvin Williams and Rasheed Wallace. They've been offering their experience to James, and he seems to be absorbing it well.
But can he put it all together and take over the starting role next season?
"Hopefully I can. Well, not hopefully. I’m going to be a starting center."
Never underestimate the power of the mind. The greatest success stories in sports revolve around a player's mentality. Think about all the athletes that were ridiculously gifted, yet managed to throw away their careers because they thought pure talent was enough.
At least we know James Michael McAdoo and Joel James won't be following that path. They appear to have it together. Now it's just a matter of execution on the court.
I truly believe this will be a breakthrough season for James and McAdoo. Good luck stopping that combination.