Final Scouting Report: James McAdoo

After more than three years of evaluation - from high school and AAU through the senior all-star games - Rob Harrington authors the final version of his in-depth scouting report on incoming Tar Heel freshman James McAdoo ...

    James McAdoo
    6-8, 225
    Norfolk (Va.) Christian
    Class of 2011


    McAdoo didn't need long to establish himself as an elite prospect in the Class of 2011. He was one of only two rising sophomores — along with No. 1 Michael Gilchrist — to attend the LeBron James Skills Academy in 2008. He received scholarship offers from Florida, UCLA and others prior to the beginning of his sophomore season.

    And McAdoo has more to thank than his ability for the early recognition. He's the son of former Old Dominion star Ronnie McAdoo, and his mother Janet also played hoops for the Monarchs and herself was a Parade All-American in high school.

    Of course, most Tar Heels see the name "McAdoo" and immediately draw a connection to former Carolina great Bob McAdoo, but in fact they are distant relatives.

    McAdoo had been considered an early Carolina lean but then waffled somewhat prior to the fall of 2009, but when he visited Chapel Hill unofficially for the 100 years celebration — the same weekend that ultimately brought a commitment from Harrison Barnes — he promptly committed to Carolina.

    He has battled injuries at times during his prep career. He injured his shoulder (torn labrum) prior to the summer of 2009 and then broke his wrist in the spring of 2010, causing him to miss travel team events. He returned to health during the summer, however, and earned all-tournament honors for USA Basketball's 17-under team, which won the gold medal.

    Upon the sudden transfer of the Wear twins in the early summer, McAdoo openly considered exiting high school a year early and joining the Tar Heels for the 2010-11 season. After further consideration he opted to finish his senior year of high school, however, and he remains a consensus top-10 prospect nationally in his class and was an obvious choice as a McDonald's All-American.


    UNC fans longing for a big-time athlete have every reason to be excited. McAdoo possesses elite quickness and fullcourt speed, and obviously those qualities make him an excellent fit for Roy Williams' transition offense. He has a long, rangy body type, the graceful stride of a gazelle and has been compared physically to track and field sprinters. His length and frame have more in common with his mom, rather than his father's powerful upper body, although he now has begun to add muscle.

    McAdoo's leaping ability enables him to explode quickly to make plays above the rim. Teamed with current UNC point guard Kendall Marshall for the Boo Williams travel team in years past, McAdoo was the recipient of numerous lob passes — he's likely to make these sorts of plays for the Tar Heels as well.

    More than only straight-line speed and leaping ability, James boasts outstanding lateral quickness. It's highly uncommon for players his size to be able to slide their feet so well defensively, and his ability to defend may be the basis upon which he spends at least some of his college career on the perimeter. He has tremendous potential as a trapper and should excel in UNC's hedge-and-recover defensive scheme.

    Beyond his natural physical attributes, McAdoo is a highly instinctive athlete. He has great spatial awareness, anticipation and timing, and as a result he accumulates some truly spectacular blocked shots from behind. He also jumps passing lanes frequently for uncontested dunks going the other way, another quality that should endear him to the UNC coaching staff very quickly.

    McAdoo's intangibles also are impressive. He competes without showing a great deal of outward emotion, and he's determined despite his frame and doesn't shy away from taking big shots in crucial moments. He also has become a more vocal presence during the past 18 months, accepting the leadership role thrust upon him in high school, summer hoops and with other teams such as USA Basketball.

    Though not a classic position rebounder due to his lack of strength, McAdoo hauls down lots of offensive boards and other rebounds that carom outside his area. He demands constant attention at both ends because of his quick-strike ability, a facet of his game that doesn't always show up on the stat line but certainly does impact the game.


    McAdoo isn't yet a polished offensive player. Much of his production comes in the form of a freelance or plays filling the gaps, but at this juncture he isn't the kind of scorer a team can turn to for reliable numbers.

    His need for improvement boils down to a pair of factors: 1) He doesn't shoot with textbook form, and 2) He's stuck between the power forward and wing forward positions offensively.

    McAdoo shoots with odd hand placement and suffers through highly inconsistent stretches at the free throw line and as a face-up shooter, though he does have decent touch and hits some shots anyway, as evidenced in the McDonald's Game as well as the Jordan Brand Classic. Still, defenses wise to his game will back off a step and force him to hurt them from outside.

    Meanwhile, he lacks the frame and footwork to be a steady post scorer. He can be pushed off the block and doesn't always appear to have a clear idea of what move he wants to make. His ball-handling is OK for a big man and enables him to beat other bigs off the dribble from time to time, but he also can over-penetrate into turnovers and forced shots.

    These issues likely would have surfaced quickly had he opted bypass his senior year of high school in favor of Chapel Hill, and the hope is that he continues to mature physically and begins making the adjustment to the more physical college game.

    College Projection

    I categorize McAdoo as an elite utility athlete. On the surface that description may not sound entirely flattering or befitting of a top-10 recruit, but frequently it's those athletes who make plays between organized action who provide a decisive edge in big games.

    Teams normally struggle to run their offensive sets as effectively during the NCAA Tournament, for example, and McAdoo's ability to retrieve a rebound or create an easy basket with a steal could prove essential during March Madness.

    From Carolina's perspective, McAdoo's still-developing offensive game likely means he'll need at least two seasons of college hoops before he can make the jump to the NBA. Yes, some NBA draft web sites project him as a high lottery pick in the 2012 draft, but my belief remains that he'll need more time than one year to reach that level of demand. While it's likely he'll enjoy a lengthy NBA career even if he doesn't become a great scorer, there's at least a chance he'll spend an additional year or two longer in college than many expect.

    I think the previously-made comparison to Antawn Jamison is suspect because of Jamison's naturally unorthodox scoring style, while McAdoo is a more conventional offensive player. On the other hand, his loping style running the court and filling a lane on the break may bring those Jamison (or James Worthy) comparisons to surface from time to time.

    He's certainly no warm-up lines prospect. Somehow, someway, McAdoo consistently produces against national and international competition, winning the respect of his teammates and coaches all along the way. Even better, he closed his senior season very strongly and played his best basketball in a year — a strong sign he'll be ready to contribute early.

Rob provides basketball recruiting coverage for, including reporting from events throughout the country. Rob is editor of the national basketball recruiting website and the print magazine Recruiter's Handbook. He also covers UNC basketball games for the Independent Weekly, writes a freelance column for and is a member of the Naismith committee honoring the nation's best high school player and votes in the McDonald's All-American Game.

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