The Portland Trail Blazers introduced rookie guard CJ McCollum at a press conference on Monday.
Here's a round-up of coverage of the press conference plus a number of interest stories from his days back at Lehigh University.
Joe Freeman of The Oregonian caught up with McCollum's previous coaches, Matt Logie and Brett Reed, who describe scenes from when he was a freshman at Lehigh Univeristy...
Lehigh had just suffered a five-point loss to Columbia and McCollum, Lehigh's star freshman player, had labored through the worst performance of his young career. ... Through tears, McCollum told Logie that he felt he had betrayed his senior teammates. He placed the loss squarely on his shoulders and he vowed never to let it happen again.
"It was so unique," Logie said. "He was upset that he didn't play well. But he was more upset that we didn't win and most upset that he let the seniors down. That's when I knew he only cared about winning and was about the right things. He wanted that pressure and didn't want to shy away from it. At that moment, I was like, 'Wow. This kid is going to be special.'"
"He was in a jersey that was way too big for him," Reed said. "Combine that with the fact that, physically, he just wasn't very strong, and it was clear it was oversized. So we trimmed it up, tucked it in, did what we could. He might not have filled up the jersey, but he filled up the stat sheet."
Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com with a press conference story...
"He was a guy that was in the gym every day," said Matt Logie, who recruited McCollum to Lehigh and coached him there for two years as an assistant before taking the head coaching job at Whitworth College in Spokane. "He knew how to workout. He wasn't just getting shots up, he was working on his game.
"I had a chance to see it come all together on the court, despite the fact that he was a little smaller in size and stature at that time, I felt like his skill level was really high and that his upside would be really high-level for our conference, especially if he did grow into his body and match the size and athleticism of his older brother, Erick. I think it's a combination of what you see today, his knack for scoring and his aggressiveness on the court (that got him drafted), but also his humility and willingness to work for those results really stood out right away."
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com writes...
"Your job is to play basketball and perform at a high level," McCollum told CSNNW.com. "Them taking me with the 10th pick makes the stakes a little bit higher. I'm expected to do more and I should do more. I'm comfortable with my abilities. I know I have a lot to improve on and I have to get ready for the transition. But, I'm ready right now. I think that's what they recognized and realized [about me]. After a few games, you'll see."
The small details of his game is what McCollum says he's going to focus on in Las Vegas, such as coming off screens crisp and tightening up his pick-and-roll game. Coming away with an award would be nice, he says, but it's all about getting better.
"I just want to be consistent and sharpen the tools up a little bit," McCollum said. "Work on some things off the screens, off-ball screens and just test everything out to see where I'm at...You can get MVP of the Summer League and go have a terrible rookie year, so I just want to make sure that I'm ready when the season starts."
Keith Gary, the Sports Editor of LehighValleyLive.com, offered these thoughts in an email back in June.
As far as CJ goes, despite getting injured this season he was wise to return for his senior year. In addition to the extra 12 months of physical and emotional maturity, he is taking advantage of what appears to be a weaker-than-usual draft class.
Also, his draft stock appears to be rising due to the comparisons to Steph Curry and Damian Lillard.
Whoever drafts CJ will be getting a good citizen and a hard worker. Plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder due to perceived slights coming out of high school, but it is something that is buried inside and drives him -- not a negative trait.
Whether or not he fits well with the Blazers depends on their greatest area of need. At this point, he would be more of a lead guard than a point guard if asked to play the 1. More natural position is the 2. However, if asked to be a pass-first guard, I wouldn't doubt if he could make that transition as he has a good feel for the game.
Anyone would be foolish to doubt him anyway, as he has proven many doubters wrong along the way.
Gary also sent over their one-stop shop for years worth of McCollum coverage during his time at Lehigh, much of it done by beat writer Michael LoRe. That link is right here. Some recent selections are listed below.
Connor Tait of LehighValleyLive.com writes about the on-campus reaction when McCollum was drafted...
Lehigh University students let out cheers at Molly's Bar in South Bethlehem when the Trail Blazers made their selection.
"Most pro athletes you don't really feel a connection with," said Conor Thompson, 21, a rising Lehigh senior. "But it's definitely exciting that a Lehigh student who I saw around campus for three years gets the chance to play with the best."
"I would see him walking along the streets and now I'm going to see him on the TV," said Marty Kundig, 20, a Lehigh swimmer. "It's crazy."
Blake Kramer, 21, a Lehigh student in attendance at the draft said, "We went wild when he got picked. Lehigh athletics are now on the map."
Michael LoRe of LehighValleyLive.com with some quotes from the pre-draft availability in NYC...
"I don't just want to be a sports reporter, I want to be on camera," McCollum, a journalism major, said during a media session at the Westin New York in Times Square on Wednesday afternoon. "I have always said I have a face for TV, so I look forward to getting in front of the camera, but at the same time I'm here to play basketball right now.
"That's my job."
While one of his main focuses at Lehigh was obviously basketball, McCollum divided his time and efforts between other endeavors, including his major.
McCollum was a constant contributor to The Brown and White - the school's student newspaper - and wrote feature stories and approximately 30 game/event recaps for Lehigh's athletic department.
"It helps me for this type of stuff," he said, having experienced both sides of the reporter/subject dynamic. "I kind of know what types of questions you're going to ask before you ask them."
Michael LoRe of LehighValleyLive.com writes about the turning point in McCollum's high school career...
Sure, the guard jetted up from his 5-2 stature as a freshman and his 5-7 height as a sophomore, but he knew this was the year.
If he wanted to fulfill his dream of playing Division I basketball and ultimately continue on to the NBA -- a dream he proclaimed to his mother, Kathy Andrews, at the age of 5 -- he had to get noticed.
McCollum wasted little time doing just that.
He scored a school-record 54 points in the season-opening 92-78 win over North (Akron) High School.
"I knew I needed to make a statement," McCollum said during a media session on Wednesday afternoon at the Westin New York hotel in Times Square on the eve of the 2013 NBA Draft. "I jokingly told my dad (Errick McCollum Sr.) I would get 50. ... Everything was working. I kind of played loose and enjoyed the moment."
Michael LoRe of LehighValleyLive.com on McCollum's relationship with his older brother, Errick, who has played professionally in Israel and Greece.
And like they have countless times before, C.J. and Errick played basketball: 1-on-1, brother versus brother. Yet unlike in the past, Errick, now 25, was unable to defeat his younger brother.
"That was the first time he beat me in a series," said Errick, Goshen (Ind.) College's all-time leading scorer (2,789), who now plays professionally in Greece. "I've been bullying him for years and I let him know about it. He finally got his revenge on me. ... That's when I knew he was ready."
"I destroyed him this past summer," C.J., 21, said with a laugh. "Print that. He needs some motivation. It means a lot to me. He's the guy who I strived to be like growing up. I wanted to be like him, the way he carried himself, how hard he worked. I modeled myself after him. When you kind of surpass the teacher at some point, it's gratifying, but I know I wouldn't have gotten there without him.
"He took my pride from me in a lot of 1-v-1 games; he made me work. I was always the tag-along, but we built a really solid relationship and kept pushing each other to be great."
McCollum wrote a draft diary for NBA.com...
When I saw the look on my Mom and Dad's face as I crossed the stage at graduation, I knew all the hard work and late nights in the library were worth it! I graduated from Lehigh University a couple weeks ago, and not only did I feel a great sense of pride, but I had a lot of fun! My whole family was there to see me graduate. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Aunt, and almost all of my cousins were there. We did miss my brother, though, who is overseas playing professional basketball in Greece. I hadn't seen my family since Easter, so it was nice to spend time with everybody and enjoy the end of a fun, exciting chapter and the start of a new one with them.
As for my mindset now, I'm fully recovered from my injury, and my body feels strong. I have my college degree. I'm looking forward to the next opportunity and hope to reach my dream of not only getting drafted, but also becoming an NBA mainstay and building a legacy in the league. I've worked extremely hard, and I'm ready for the next step!
Michael LoRe of LehighValleyLive.com writes that McCollum waited a few weeks before addressing the media after he broke his foot in January.
"I was reluctant to do a press conference or presser because I don't want to be a distraction or deflect attention that rightfully belongs to my team," McCollum said in a statement released by the university today. "I am focusing on my academics and being the best supporter I can for my teammates. The focus should be on them and the success we're having as a program."
"My rehab is going well and I'm taking this injury in stride and using it to become a better student of the game in all facets," he continued in the statement. "I have grown closer to God and realize that this injury was a blessing in disguise. ... Everything is going well and I've heard nothing but positive feedback from trainers and team physicians. My teammates have made this transition easy for me by handling business on the court. I will continue to be a positive influence on them helping in every way possible from the sideline. I have all the confidence in the world in them and look forward to being an efficacious asset and leader for our team."
Michael Lore of LehighValleyLive.com with reaction from McCollum's teammates after his injury.
Conroy Baltimore was sitting on the bench during the second half of last Saturday's game at Virginia Commonwealth University when C.J. McCollum approached.
"When I saw the tears I knew it was bad, but I didn't know how bad," Baltimore said after Lehigh's 81-46 win over Muhlenberg on Tuesday night at Stabler Arena. "He told me (‘I broke my foot') and I was devastated. He's been working so hard his whole life preparing to go to the NBA and to have something like a broken foot come in and try to stop that really hurts. I was really shocked."
"(The bus ride from VCU) was quiet," Baltimore said. "Everybody was sad because we should have won the game and then hearing C.J. broke his foot was devastating. ... We have to keep playing hard, play for him and hopefully it all works out so he can come back for the Patriot League Tournament and we go from there."
Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose of the Grantland Network interviewed McCollum before the Draft.
Here are some highlights from McCollum's junior season.
Here's an interview with Brian Wheeler on Blazers Courtside...
- McCollum is among the 2014 Rookie of the Year favorites.
- McCollum was interviewed on Jim Rome...
- McCollum takes questions after being drafted...
- McCollum writes a guest spot for Sports Illustrated...
- McCollum's bio/scouting breakdowns/videos...
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter