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June 14, 2012

A candid self-assessment

James Michael McAdoo's answers on Thursday during the Tar Heels' annual summer interview session with Coach Roy Williams and selected players proved to be as rare as the young man's skills.

McAdoo, a rising sophomore, did not dodge, did not hedge when answering questions about the long road from the weak start of his freshman season to a dominant finish during the 2012 ACC and NCAA tournaments.

His answers on Thursday were obvious products of candid, possibly even painful, self-evaluation.

McAdoo started slowly in the fall of 2011. After that, he required much of the season to regain the form that had made him one of the nation's top recruits.

Just remember, this is a young man who was named USA Basketball's player of the year while still in high school. McAdoo is the youngest player to ever win the award.

He led two USA Basketball teams to gold medals in separate summers, one in 2009 in Argentina and another in 2010 in Germany.

This POY award normally goes to a college or professional player.

Then McAdoo surprised even himself with what came next. The young man who achieved so much in high school did not arrive in Chapel Hill. A shell of his former self impersonated the youngster who dominated competition during international play and high school games.

"Honestly, I felt like it was my consistency," McAdoo said of the start to his freshman season. "The first of the year I was lackadaisical in my approach to the game. Mentally, I felt I was out of it.

"I didn't necessarily tell myself that this team needed me," he said. "As the year went on, I talked to Coach [Williams] and the other coaches. I realized the team did need me, and I had to step up my game. I had responsibilities. Just because I was a freshman did not mean I could sit back and play well when I want to. They needed me every day."

He said he is not sure why he had such a poor mental approach to the start of his career.

"I don't know," McAdoo said. "It's college. You all know how college is. There is a whole different atmosphere. Mom and dad and my sister were not here.

"You have to grow up quickly, especially if you want to play Division I basketball at UNC. So I feel like I lost my focus, lost who I was, but I was able to make up my mind and do what I am capable of doing. It finally showed on the basketball court."

McAdoo is 6 feet 9 and weighs at least 220 pounds. His overall athleticism and great quickness are two of the qualities that feed the reservoir of talent he utilizes to be a dominant force.

The consistency he lacked early in his freshman year has now been replaced by steady hard work and excellent production. The leap forward has continued into the middle of June while playing pick-up games against Tar Heels now in the National Basketball Association and players soon to be there.

"The way he is playing right now is amazing," teammate Reggie Bullock said. "Coming in, when he first started the season, I saw that he was a little shaky. He didn't really know what to do, when to do it.

"He was too passive to Harrison [Barnes], John [Henson and [Tyler Zeller]. With his game, he is definitely a dominant player."

McAdoo said the difference came about when he learned to erase doubts and passiveness and build on the skills he has always relied upon to be a great prospect.

"God has given me a blessing," McAdoo said. "I'm ecstatic just to be able to start the [2012-13] season where I left off. Hopefully I can help this team win basketball games.

"It's a great opportunity to be one of the players on UNC's basketball team -- period, let alone of the better ones."


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