James McAdoo Q + A
Prep star talks family, sneakers and his decision not to enroll early at UNC.
by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
“I play because I enjoy the game. I like that feeling of putting the ball in the hoop. You’re so good you keep putting them in the basket. You keep on doing that and you can see the other guy getting discouraged, putting his head down. I’ve seen that a lot, I like that, making a guy put his head down.” –Bob McAdoo Echoes from the Schoolyard, 1977
During the Elite 24 in Los Angeles this year, James McAdoo caught my eye. Sure, the name rang out. His uncle is NBA Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo and his parents Ronnie and Janet both played ball at Old Dominion (and older sister Kelsey played at Charlotte). But that wasn’t it. I was captivated by his quiet aura, big smile and humble nature. And of course, his game. James showcased his versatility at the Elite 24, picking up co-MVP honors after dropping 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Earlier this year, McAdoo considered early enrollment at UNC. When twins David and Travis Wear decided to transfer out of Chapel Hill this spring, the Tar Heels frontcourt dramatically changed. Roy Williams and his staff were open to the idea of James graduating early and making the jump to college, helping to fill the void. But in the end, James and his family opted against the idea, so he will return to Norfolk Christian High (Norfolk, VA) for his senior year, where he is an honor student.
SLAM: Have things calmed down for you? You were such a hot topic earlier this year. Has the media left you alone of late?
James McAdoo: It’s funny you say that. It’s been so quiet. This interview I’m doing right here is the first one in forever it feels like. I’ve just been playing ball this summer with the USA team (U17). Obviously, we’ve had a lot of success with that. Playing with my AAU team and coming out here. I know this is a big publicity thing, but I’m not getting that much attention. That’s not a bad thing. I’m just out here having fun and trying to prove myself against the best 23 players in the nation.
SLAM: Talk about the USA experience. What’s it been like wearing the colors for you?
JM: It was my second time and I was so glad to be able to come back out there. I was named the captain—God blessed me with that. My mindset was just to try and bring home the Gold for the USA. It was not easy. We had a lot of things we were up against. The crowd, no air conditioning in the hotel, the food we were eating. Overall it was good. I have many memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
SLAM: What are some of your goals this year?
JM: With me coming back to high school and not going to Carolina for that extra year, it’s something where I can just sit back and relax and enjoy my senior year. Hopefully repeat as state and conference champions. Hopefully enjoy other events like this, like the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Classic. Hopefully I can get into those.
SLAM: What was the reaction like from North Carolina fans regarding your decision?
JM: I don’t really know. A lot of them probably thought I was a lock, just from some of the articles I read. Now that I think about it, there is no way I could have went. I would have had to complete an English class over the summer and would have had to give up team USA and I wasn’t going to give that up. Overall, I think they were disappointed but they wanted what was best for me.
SLAM: Basketball is in your family. When do you remember picking up a ball for the first time?
JM: Probably when I was 7 or 8 years old, playing rec ball and not really knowing what I was doing. Being so tall when I was young, they just stuck me under the basket. When I was around 11, I went to this FCA camp and that’s when I just started to love the game. I realized I was pretty good at this and wanted to have a future and maybe a career in it.
SLAM: Were your skills starting to come together at that age?
JM: Yeah. I got tall really quick. So I was always stuck in the post. But I always tried to develop my skills so I wouldn’t be stuck under the basket. That was around the age I started to grow into myself and develop my own game.
SLAM: How would you describe your game right now?
JM: I’m like a hybrid 4 man that runs the floor well and can do a lot of things. Playing with my back to the basket—that’s something I really want to work on before I get to Carolina. I’m a guy with a face-up game that can handle the ball and relive some of the stress off the guards. Kind of like a Lamar Odom.
SLAM: So you feel real comfortable handling the ball and want to continue to develop your handle?
JM: Right. I’m about 6-9 right now and that’s probably where I will end up, unless I can get to 6-10 but I don’t see that happening. I know that in the NBA, that would have me as a 3 and in college that would have me at a 4. I’m just trying to develop my skills so that one day I’ll be able to play the 3.
SLAM: A lot of basketball fans are familiar with your last name. Has that been a burden for your growing up or has that been something that has been really cool?
JM: It’s actually been an honor to just have the last name McAdoo. Especially going to UNC. Knowing how popular that name is in Carolina. And with Bob McAdoo here, he played for the Lakers of course, so people hear my last name and automatically think he’s my dad but he’s not. He’s my uncle. It’s just an honor to have that last name.
SLAM: What was your relationship like with your uncle growing up? Did he have a big influence on you basketball wise?
JM: No. I just recently started to talk to him after I committed to Carolina. But he definitely was good friends with my parents when they lived out here in L.A. When he played for the Lakers they used to come to all the games and watch him and Magic and Kareem and all them go at it. With him coaching the Miami Heat now, it’s always good to keep that line of communication open. Maybe with the chance of me being able to play in the NBA in the future, just talking to him and getting all the advice I can.
SLAM: Who had the biggest influence on you basketball wise?
JM: Probably my parents. My dad mostly. My mom, she was the better of the two. She was the No. 1 center coming out of her class. My parents never forced basketball on me. They’ve always been there to back me up on the decisions I’ve made. It forced me to grow up. In basketball you have to make a lot of decisions as far as what you want to do with your life.
SLAM: It sounds like you seem to know what’s at stake.
JM: Definitely. I look at basketball as a means to an end. It’s not always going to be around. If you were to ask me what I would be doing in five years a couple years ago, I wouldn’t have said it would be stuff like this. I didn’t know stuff like this existed. Basketball has opened so many doors. It’s crazy. What you put into it is what you get out of it.
SLAM: Do you remember the first time you saw SLAM Magazine?
JM: [Smiles] The first time was when I was at the LeBron James skills academy after my ninth grade year. I was kind of nervous because they were like, ‘SLAM is the best magazine.’ Being the young man that I was at the time—you had John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins there. I didn’t know who these guys were at 13. I was just thrown out to the fire. Seeing those guys do those photo shoots, I was like maybe one day that will be me—I’ll have the opportunity to be in SLAM.
SLAM: I see you have some nice sneaks on today. Are you a little bit of a sneaker head?
JM: Am I? I wouldn’t call myself a collector. I just love shoes. I got like 70 pair at home.
SLAM: Do you keep them in boxes?
JM: Naw. I don’t like the boxes because I like to look at them. I got shoe racks. My mom got me some shoe racks to keep my room nice and clean. I can’t take them to college with me. But going to Carolina and being sponsored by Jordan isn’t a bad thing. [Laughs]