Up Close: James McAdoo, Part I

Inside Carolina's Matt Morgan traveled to Norfolk, Va. to put together a multi-part feature story on North Carolina commitment James McAdoo. Here's Part I ...

Part I
What's In A Name?

NORFOLK, Va. --- In North Carolina the last name McAdoo comes with a lot of expectations.

When people think of McAdoo, they think 18,787 points and 8,048 rebounds in the NBA. They think two NBA titles, five all-star selections, an MVP award and a spot in the hall of fame. They think 19.5 points per game at North Carolina.

Norfolk Christian junior James McAdoo knows all about that.

"People definitely remind me," James said. "I learn new stuff about my uncle every day. Some of the accomplishments he's had over his career. I've always known McAdoo, especially in North Carolina, is a very big name. So I'm looking to be able to add onto that."

But as much as James admires Bob McAdoo for his accomplishments in college and pro basketball, his parents Janet and Ronnie come up a lot more when he talks about the family basketball legacy. "Uncle" Bob — who is actually James' father's cousin — has had a minimal role in his basketball development.

"People think I talk to (Bob) all the time and I've never talked to the guy in my whole life," James laughed. "Most definitely my parents were my biggest influence. Both of my parents were outstanding athletes. My mom was actually the best athlete in the family."

James' parents Ronnie and Janet McAdoo were the original basketball power couple. They met while playing basketball at Old Dominion in the late '70s/early '80s and started dating soon after.

Janet was recruited to the Norfolk campus as the No. 1 center in the country out of high school and was a Parade All-American. At 6-foot-5, she was ahead of her time; a mobile and skilled post player, filling the lanes on the break for the Monarchs.

At ODU, Ronnie was a bit of a throwback — even then. He was a muscle-bound 6-foot-6 power forward James describes as the CAA's version of Trevor Booker.

"He'll take your head off," James laughed. "He would go out there and try to hurt you."

With two accomplished basketball players as parents and a sister, Kelsey, who played for UNC-Charlotte, James grew up in a basketball family.

Basketball was such a big part of Ronnie and Janet's lives it was an unavoidable backdrop for their kids' lives. When they coached youth basketball teams, James and his sister Kelsey were in the gym soaking everything up.

"My parents never forced basketball upon me," James said. "It was more like if I didn't play, I wouldn't really fit into the family."

As a child, James and his sister were regulars at ODU games.

"I used to be afraid of their mascot," James said of the ODU lion. "Some kids love them. I was one of those kids that was scared to death of them."

But it didn't take long for James to grow out of his fear for 6-foot plush animals. By eighth grade James was 6-foot-3 and already a starter on the Norfolk Christian varsity team. Janet and Ronnie knew their son was going to be big – Janet's three brothers are 6-foot-11, 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-6 respectively – but they didn't realize their son was going to be so good at basketball.

After putting Kelsey into the AAU circuit a little too early, they held James out until a little later. When they relented they finally realized what kind of a talent they had on their hands.

"I was just amazed he was as good as he was," Janet said. "Then really about his eighth grade season he just sort of blew up."

As James' career progressed, Ronnie has never strayed too far from the game of basketball. In addition to his work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Ronnie is also an assistant coach at Norfolk Christian and is the deliverer of tough love when it comes to hoops.

With a torso the size of Anthony Mason and a Michael Cage mustache to match, Ronnie still looks ready for the rigors of college basketball but for now just helps his son out on the hardwood.

"I love watching him play. He's exceeded my expectations," Ronnie said. "He's a great player but he still needs to get stronger to play at the college level. Other than that I think the sky is the limit for him. We've just got to get him stronger."

Ronnie says his daughter Kelsey always played more like him and James played more of a finesse game, like his mother. He says he's working on putting his stamp on his son's game.

"I think a little bit of meanness wouldn't hurt him," Ronnie laughed. "I think once he gets stronger and he gets a little more meat on him, I think that'll come."

Janet, on the other hand, strictly enjoys the sport from the sidelines. Outside of helping with a camp for disadvantaged youths organized by her husband, she stays away from the game. In fact, James says he's never seen his mother shoot a basketball.

"He's constantly trying to bait me and get me onto the court but I'm like ‘No, I'm good. I've set my records. I'm very happy with my game. I'll let history speak for itself," Janet said. "When I played basketball I was a very good player. ... But for me it was more of a means to an end. I loved the game and was passionate about the game but I didn't have any problems walking away from it."

While dad coaches basketball, Janet helps James hold down his books. Janet is an algebra teacher at Norfolk Christian and has an up-close look at her son every day.

James has never had his mother as a teacher but that came only as a result of his greatest achievement as a student. Instead of taking a Pre-Algebra class taught by his mother in seventh grade, a hesitant James studied up and was able to bypass Pre-Algebra all together.

Janet said she wishes she had taught her son but can only be so hurt by his efforts to avoid her classroom.

"We have a great relationship," Janet said. "We ride to school together and he walks me into my classroom and he helps me get things going and helps turn the lights on and stuff. Then he tells me ‘Mom, have a great day. I love you.'

"That's every day and that's such a huge blessing to me."

(Check back tomorrow for Part II ...)

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