Before Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum was considered one of the league’s best shooters; before he was not just a starter, but a star; before the perception shifted from most underrated to Most Improved, there was work. Mountains of it—climbed behind the scenes of the only Pacific Northwest show in town. McCollum’s surge to national recognition didn’t happen overnight, and Ananth Pandian of SLAM Online outlines the assent for McCollum’s Hustler’s Ambition cover issue, hitting newsstands this weekend.
Check out the following excerpt:
Drafted 10th overall in 2013, McCollum broke his left foot at the tail end of training camp before the start of his first season—an injury made even more devastating because he’d broken the same foot his senior year at Lehigh. And while McCollum was able to bounce back from that injury, the fact that it happened again less than a year later led to a whole bunch of uncertainty.
“It was a tough blow for me, honestly,” McCollum says. “I was picked by the rookies to win Rookie of the Year. I felt like I was going to have a good season. I just remember getting the X-ray, looking at [Portland general manager] Neil [Olshey] and crying. Because I’m like, This is it, again. This is two breaks in less than a year. What’s going to happen with my life?
“I just remember him saying, ‘Ten years from now, we won’t even remember this.’ And that’s how I carried myself. Put this in the past and [focus] on playing so well and preparing so much that as I get older, no one will really remember what happened my rookie year.”
Portland fans know what McCollum went through, but to read his thoughts on the early struggle, follow this link to the full article.