I remember being completely shocked when I heard talk of James McAdoo possibly being drafted in the top 10 of the 2012 NBA draft. Sure he filled in admirably in the absence of John Henson late last season, but a few solid performances hardly screamed NBA superstar. It would have been a disaster that most likely would have doomed his professional career, but thankfully he returned for his second season at UNC. Now that we’re halfway through his sophomore campaign, it’s pretty clear McAdoo is still far from ready to make the leap to the professional ranks.

It’s easy to see how pro scouts could be mesmerized by the chiseled, 6’9” 230 pound athlete. McAdoo has great speed and quickness for his size. Add that to his jumping ability and you get the increasingly-dreaded “potential” tag. This label has led to countless botched draft picks, GM firings, and careers that ended before they could get started. This is precisely what would have happened had McAdoo turned pro after last season, and I’m glad he didn’t fall into the trap.

For the first half of the season, McAdoo played mostly rushed and out of control. He was weak and tentative, often shying away from contact. He took way too many off balance or hurried shots, usually without ever surveying the defense before making a decision. McAdoo would simply catch the ball (when he was able to do that), then turn and fire up a quick shot without ever considering his options. He just hadn’t shown the ability to read a situation and make the right play, which often lead to bad shots or careless turnovers. The last two games have given us a glimpse of the player everyone was expecting to see this season.

McAdoo has always played hard, but he seemed to finally be playing with a purpose in Saturday’s game against Maryland. He was aggressive from the outset, hustling all over the floor and seemingly coming up with every loose ball. He showed signs of maturing offensively, taking his time before attacking the rim, taking a jump shot, or passing to a teammate. It helped that he had his best outside shooting day of the season, but that was a direct result of simply looking at the basket and getting on balance before chucking it up. McAdoo has settled for a tough jump shot too often this season, and as a result his field goal percentage has suffered and he’s only averaging five free throw attempts per game. He’s attempted 24 free throws over his past three games however, and while he’s only made 11 of them, his increased confidence and aggression are very encouraging signs.

James McAdoo has plenty of tools to be a very good basketball player, but I’m not sure he has the mentality to be a dominant player. He may just be a little too nice to ever play the way people want him to, and that’s okay. Not everyone is wired to bring the intensity and competitive will that is needed to be a basketball superstar, and it’s starting to look like we might have a couple more years before we know just how good a player McAdoo can be in Chapel Hill.

You can follow Josh on Twitter @HoopVisions

image via todd melet