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NCAA: C.J. McCollum Ready For Final Run
Posted By Yannis Koutroupis On September 26, 2012 @ 9:00 pm In All,Main Page,NCAA | No Comments
The Lehigh Mountain Hawks are coming off of a season that will be remembered forever. They finished the year 27-8 and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament after shocking second-seeded Duke in the second round.
Junior shooting guard C.J. McCollum was the catalyst behind their historic run, putting up 21 points, six rebounds and three assists a night. His play firmly put him on the NBA radar. Had he left early, he likely would have been a first-round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. However, in the end, the temptations to go pro were outweighed by his original goals that he was one year away from accomplishing.
“It was a very tough process that I really had to think about, the pros and cons of leaving school early and just figuring out with my family the decision that was best for myself,” McCollum said to HOOPSWORLD. “I just decided that coming back to school and finishing my education and what I started here was better for myself and my family. I can get my degree, that’s what I came here for and that’s what I promised my parents that I would do, just that. In the meantime I can continue to grow, develop and work on my game and just enjoy the college experience because it’s one of the best experiences of your life. We have great bonds and friendships that will last forever. I definitely hope we can make another run this year, continue to grow, develop and just enjoy getting my degree.”
McCollum’s strength is in how well-rounded he is. He can really score the ball, but he impacts the game in many other areas as well. So, this offseason was about expanding on the versatility that has made him a top-ranked prospect.
“This offseason we did a lot of traveling in terms of going to basketball academies like Chris Paul’s and LeBron James’ in Las Vegas,” McCollum said. “I was happy to be able to attend the procedures and camps. In terms of preparing for the season, I’ve just been working on everything, making sure that I’m in the weight room working on my full-body strength, lateral quickness, explosiveness, working on endurance, shooting, creating, working on my ballhandling, just trying to tighten everything up so I’m ready to finish strong down the stretch. That’s probably the most important on winning games in the second half and winning games late in conference play. I’m just trying to build off my strengths and improve all my weaknesses.”
With all the success McCollum and the Mountain Hawks have experienced, there’s a much different feel going into the season.
“I definitely feel there is a greater buzz on campus,” McCollum said. “A lot more people are aware of who we are in terms of the basketball team and a lot of people are asking questions about our first home game and I definitely see that in terms of buzz, a lot of people recognizing who we are on campus.
“I’ve worked extremely hard to put myself in this position and situation, so I definitely felt that it was possible for me to be in this position, a position to help lead my team to another NCAA Tournament and hopefully go on to play in the NBA. That’s ultimately my goal and with hard work and a little bit of help, I’ll definitely be able to get there. I’m just thanking everyone around me, I thank Lehigh for giving me this opportunity and putting me in this situation where I can succeed, not only on the court but in the classroom.”
As McCollum mentioned, he will need help. There was some turnover from last year’s team, but the Mountain Hawks coaching staff has accounted for that.
“Every year there are new players and every year it’s a new team, new identity,” McCollum said. “We brought in a couple of freshmen who can help out and we lost some important seniors that displayed a lot of leadership in bringing this squad together, so we definitely lost a big piece to our team. But, at the same time we had a great run of scoring and we have some great leaders coming back. We have four starters coming back, probably about 85-90 percent of our scoring, 90 percent of our rebounding, 90 percent of our assists, so we returned a lot. We definitely have a lot of experience and that will be crucial to the development of our season and in late in March when we try and make a run.”
Despite how talented and experienced McCollum’s supporting cast may be, the bulk of responsibilities and expectations are going to fall on his shoulders. He’s one of the best players to ever play for the program and this is his last year to add to his legacy. Yet, he is wisely keeping the same approach that’s helped him get where he is today.
“I’m not trying to do anything different, out of the ordinary,” McCollum said. “I’m just going to go out and play my game and just play as hard as I can and do whatever is necessary for us to win. At the end of the day, I came to school and I came to win and with team success comes individual success and honor so we’re just going to try and be as successful as possible as a team. A lot of stuff will fall into line. In terms of showing anything new in my game, I’m just going to continue doing everything in my power to help us win, everything in my power to getting assists, whatever is necessary in terms of leadership, I’m willing to do it. I think the holes in my game or weaknesses will show for itself along with my strength and people will be able to see what I’ve improved on and so forth.”
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