James Michael McAdoo admits he was content to stay in the background for much of his freshman season. On a squad with four future draft picks, his lackluster play hardly seemed to matter. "Last year I was just along for the ride, honestly," McAdoo says. "I was just trying to get a ring out of it."
North Carolina didn't get that far, bowing out in the Elite Eight, and now a roster of complementary players will have to fill the massive void left by the departed stars. Most important among them is the 6'9", 230-pound McAdoo, whose dismal start in Chapel Hill took everyone by surprise. "I think the game just shocked him so much early—how big everybody was, how fast, how strong," coach Roy Williams says of McAdoo (a distant relative of former Tar Heels and NBA star Bob McAdoo). "It took him a while to get settled in, but when he did, it was a drastic difference.... The last seven games of the year, compared to the first 15, it was like night and day."
Entering the starting lineup after forward John Henson sprained his left wrist in March, McAdoo starred during North Carolina's postseason run, averaging 10.6 points in the team's last seven games, more than double his output to that point. "That was huge, just knowing that I can do it," he says. "I couldn't imagine, if that didn't happen, what I'd be feeling like right now."
McAdoo, along with sophomore Desmond Hubert and freshman Joel James, will need to balance out an offense featuring sharpshooting junior guards Reggie Bullock (38.2% from three) and Leslie McDonald (who missed last season to rehab a torn right ACL). Running the show will be highly touted point guard Marcus Paige, a likely starter as a freshman.
"We're not the team that we were last year," McAdoo says. "We'll feel ourselves out and then explode onto the scene at our own pace."
After playing a supporting role a year ago, McAdoo is prepared to take center stage.
ROUND OF 32
ROUND OF 64
Projected Starting Five
COACH Roy Williams (10th season)
2010--12 RECORD 32--6
ACC 14--2 (1st)
WHAT'S BACK Minutes: 35.0% Points: 30.8% Rebounds: 30.0%
*High school stats
57.0 PERCENTAGE of field goals made by Dexter Strickland, the third highest of any returning guard (minimum 100 attempts) and the highest of any UNC backcourt player in the Roy Williams era.
DAVID E. KLUTHO
JAMES MICHAEL MCADOO A distant relative of Tar Heels great Bob, he found a higher gear during a four-game NCAA tournament stretch.