The Portland Trail Blazers selected Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum with the No. 10 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday.
"It means a lot [to play with Blazers guard Damian Lillard]," McCollum said in a televised interview on ESPN. "It's a good opportunity. Dame is a good guy. He's laid the path for not only myself but a lot of mid-major guys out there. We'll definitely be a dynamic backcourt whether we play together, or whatever the team decides to do."
Asked what being selected in the draft meant to him, McCollum quoted the rapper Drake.
"It means a lot to me, man," he said. "I've come a long way. Drake said it 'Started from the bottom.' I really started from the bottom, for real. I was tiny [growing up]. It just shows what God can do. If you work hard, have faith in your abilities, anything is possible."
McCollum discussed his visit to Portland in a Sports Illustrated essay last week.
I'm also glad I'm going through this at 21. A lot of guys leave college early, but I wouldn't have been ready for this process two years ago. That extra maturity helped me. And no matter what happens next week, I've already had a taste of NBA life. Traveling to meet teams, I've had first-class flights and dinners at great restaurants. Coming from college, where you have no money and people can't even buy you lunch, that's been nice. Last month I landed in Portland to meet with the Trail Blazers. As soon as I got off the plane, some people outside the gate asked for my autograph. My first thought was, Wow, this is cool. My next was, How did they know this was my flight? Then I wondered: The plane was three hours late -- how long have these people been waiting?
Getting that kind of attention is a great feeling, but it reminded me how things change once you even get close to the NBA. You're a public figure, and you won't be getting paid to just run fast and jump high and score points. You're representing the team that picks you. I'm ready to get it all started.
Career Highlights: Ranks first in Patriot League history and second in school history with 2,361 career points scored. Named Patriot League Player of the Year as a junior and freshman. Earned Honorable Mention All-American Honors from the Associated Press as a junior and freshman. Named First Team All-Patriot League as a junior, sophomore and freshman.
Senior (2012-13): Ranked first on team in scoring (23.9 ppg) while ranking second in rebounds (5.0 rpg) and assists (2.9 apg). Scored in double figures in 11 of 12 games played. Scored a season-high 36 points along with eight rebounds against Baylor. Scored 35 points against Fairfield. Scored 34 points against Bryant. Scored 30 points along with a season-high nine rebounds against Quinnipiac. Missed the bulk of the season after suffering a broken left foot on Jan. 5.
Strengths: Has solid size and length for a guard. Extremely skilled scorer inside and out. Gets to the rim at a good rate, but more dangerous from the perimeter. Good rebounder and defender for his position.
More from Matt Kamalsky of DraftExpress.com...
Despite the improvement in his numbers likely being inflated by the limited sample of games we have to look at (12 total), the consistency of McCollum's mechanics, whether he's pulling up off the dribble, shooting off the catch, or using his step-back are more controlled and consistent than they were early in his career. He still takes some difficult, off balance shots, but his 63% true shooting percentage ranks him as the most efficient point guard prospect in our top-100 nonetheless, reflecting just how impressive he's been as a senior.
In addition to his improved shooting, McCollum continues to show the ability to get into the paint using changes of speed and direction to keep defenders guessing. Possessing a good first step, but lacking blow by quickness and elite leaping ability, McCollum isn't as prolific at the basket as he is from the perimeter, but he shows good body control and a willingness to draw contact. Finishing at a 56.8% clip at the rim and averaging 6.1 free throw attempts per-game, the two-time Patriot League Player of the Year can make plays around the rim given the opportunity and excels in fast paced games where he can push the ball and catch the defense scrambling.
A crafty shot creator with a high skill level and basketball IQ, McCollum shows good court vision, but is not a natural facilitator for the Mountain Hawks, nor is he asked to be one. The Ohio native does make very good decisions pushing the ball in the open floor, and has impressive ball-handling skills, leaving plenty of room for optimism that he could fill a role that calls for both scoring and distributing as a NBA point guard long-term.
From: CJ McCollum, Media Availability, Wednesday, June 26, 2013:
Q: How were you able to balance your schedule at school, working for the school newspaper, the athletic department and playing basketball?
McCollum: I think being busy and having to balance your priorities helps to build character. When I got hurt, a bit more free time on my hands … sitting around in practice all day, in a chair trying to dribble and stuff, it kind of gets repetitive and boring, so you work on other stuff. My parents always told me to have a plan. I always said I didn’t need a backup plan. But when you get older, you realize you do. Life expectancy in the NBA isn’t very long. Hopefully, I can maximize it and have a double-digit career. But, at the same time, I want to be building my resume so I don’t have to rush into it and say “OK, now I want to be a sports broadcaster.” I can say, “Look, I’ve got a body of work here, this is what I’ve done throughout my career.”
Q: What was it like talking to Phoenix’s Lon Babby, a Lehigh alum?
McCollum: It was a fun time. He’s definitely a very proud alum. But at the same time I was trying to sell myself. They’ve got the No. 5 pick, so it was pretty fun talking at dinner, talking about Lehigh, and at the same time talking about how I could fit in with the Suns. He’s a good guy; it’s not easy to graduate from Lehigh.
Q: Your three-point shot improved a lot this year. What did you do?
McCollum: I think it was a number of things, mainly breaking down film. I broke down essentially every shot I took my junior year, charted whether I missed it short or long. I wanted to know why I was missing and where I was getting my shots up, so that I could kind of perfect those areas. Another was that I built up conditioning and overall strength. I don’t know if you can tell, but I’ve gotten stronger every year. If you look at the way my jersey kind of hung off my shoulder each year, it progressively started to fit me better. I don’t know if that’s because Nike bought us better jerseys or whether I actually got a little bit bigger. But I got stronger and my game got better, and I took better shots.
Chad Ford of ESPN.com had the Blazers selecting McCollum in a recent mock draft, as did David Aldridge of NBA.com right here. Ford also recently included McCollum on a list of three players piquing the Blazers' interest.
Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett had the Blazers selecting McCollum in his mock draft.
Blazers point guard Damian Lillard included McCollum on a list of his three favorite players in this year's class, along with Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel and Kansas guard Ben McLemore.
McCollum was also included in a list of the three best fits for the Blazers by a national analyst.
Lillard has been used as a comparison for McCollum as both spent four years at small schools.
You can read ZiggyTheBeagle's statistical similarity breakdowns of McCollum here.
Check out the following DraftExpress.com videos of McCollum.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter