Prior to the start of the 2009-10 season, Duke looked like they were going to be in trouble.
With Greg Paulus graduating, Gerald Henderson heading to the NBA, and Elliot Williams transferring out of the school, Duke had just two true back court players on their roster -- Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer. But they did have class of 2010 recruit Andre Dawkins committed to the school. Dawkins elected to enroll at Duke a year early, providing valuable minutes as a back up and knocking down some big shots as Duke ended up ACC champs and won the national title.
Could UNC do the same thing this year?
The Tar Heels lost David and Travis Wear to UCLA, Ed Davis to the NBA, and Deon Thompson to graduation. Roy Williams was left with just two front court players on this roster -- John Henson and Tyler Zeller.
UNC has enough talent in their back court to be considered a Final Four contender, but it is difficult to seriously put the Heels in that discussion when the only two big men they have on the roster are Zeller and Henson.
Williams addressed the problem when he convinced Alabama transfer Justin Knox to finish his career in Chapel Hill. Its not a knock on Knox, but the big man averaged a meager 6.3 ppg for Alabama last season. He isn't exactly an all-american.
But James McAdoo is.
McAdoo is a top five recruit in the class of 2011, a 6'8" forward with length and athleticism for days. He's also committed to North Carolina, where he should flourish in the Heels uptempo system. And with the opening in UNC's front court, McAdoo is now considering enrolling a year early at UNC.
"This type of decision is very personal and is laden with both pros and cons, Janey McAdoo told the Dagger in an email. "When we have made a final decision, we will release that information to the press. We would like it to be known that we approached North Carolina with this prospect and it was in no way initiated by anyone at The University of North Carolina."
McAdoo will be at least the third player this year that would have skipped their senior years in high school in order to get to college a year early. Scottie Wilbekin is graduating from The Rock School in Gainesville in order to enroll at Florida early. Matt Carlino, a guard from Bloomington, Indiana, will enroll early at UCLA as well.
It is a bit of a confusing trend.
On the one hand, it is completely understandable that a recruit is going to want to get to college earlier. I mean, its college. You get to play college basketball (at UNC, Florida, and UCLA for these three kids, that's pretty awesome), go to college parties, and meet college girls. Isn't that the dream of every high schooler?
It is also a chance to better themselves basketball-wise. Instead of spending a year playing against high school competition where these kids dominate -- let's not be foolish, anyone going to a high major is a star at the high school level -- they spend a year in college, getting the best coaching in the country and playing against the best competition in the country.
And as long as the kid isn't an 18 year old junior, its not a loophole to the NBA, either. The rule is that you have to be a year removed from high school and 19 years old. McAdoo turns 19 on January 4th of 2012, which means he would have to spend two seasons at North Carolina.
So McAdoo gets to college -- the coaching and the college life, which at North Carolina doesn't seem that terrible -- a year early, but Roy Williams gets to keep him there for two years?
Win on both sides, right?
Yes, it is, but the worry is that these kids are growing up too quickly. Leaving high school early is now officially a trend, and its not necessarily a good one. Think about your senior year in high school. There are a lot of experiences during that year that are once in a lifetime. Senior prom. Graduating with your classmates. The parties. The memories.
Its a great year. And these kids are missing out on it because they are not patient enough to wait the normal four years it takes to get through high school.
Is compromising one of the best parts about growing up worth becoming a college basketball player a year early?
Its the player's decision, and what he believes is in his best interest, who am I to argue. But what I will do is point out that the two players that have made the jump in recent years -- Dawkins and Daniel Hackett at USC -- didn't exactly become all-americans and lottery picks. Dawkins had a so-so freshman season individually (one that could have been a lot better had he not been forced to deal with the death of his sister), and Hackett played three seasons as a role player for USC before declaring for the NBA Draft. He went undrafted and is now a pro in Italy.
And we all know how Jeremy Tyler's decision to leave high school early worked out.
So while the bright lights of the Dean Dome, Pauley Pavilion, the O-Dome, and ESPN may be tempting, getting to college a year early is not exactly a gateway to the NBA.