The FGCU Eagles were the darlings of this year's NCAA tournament but last March was Lehigh's time in the sun. The No. 15 Mountain Hawks knocked off No. 2 Duke, thanks in large part to a 30 point blowout performance from junior guard C.J. McCollum. McCollum's stock was skyhigh, but he chose to return to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for another year. Most players in his position would have taken the money and ran, but the journalism major explained his position in an article for The Sporting News.
"My family and I believe another year in college will be more beneficial for me on and off court. If I were in a situation where I needed money, I would definitely consider taking my career to the next level. But both of my parents work hard to ensure my brother and I can live comfortably, which takes away any added pressure to pursue a professional career at this time. The fact that my brother plays professionally over in Israel doesn’t hurt, either," McCollum said.
Some wondered if McCollum was costing himself a guaranteed deal by passing up the chance to go in the first round of the 2012 draft. There were also doubters for the guard when he fractured his left foot this past January. Even though the injury cost him the second half of the season and a chance to flex his muscles in the Patriot League tournament, the senior is still going to go off the board inside of the first 30 picks.
The foot injury came at a rather inopportune time as McCollum was averaging 25.7 points per contest on the year. Just as he did in his junior year, McCollum showed that he can create his own opportunities to score when necessary. There's going to be some debate over whether the 6'3" prospect can play the point guard position in part because of the amount of shots that he took for Lehigh. The reality is, however, that he was charged with scoring in bunches for his team and he has decent court vision. He doesn't project to be Jason Kidd, but he can certainly be an effective shoot-first combo guard at the next level.
On the other side of the floor, McCollum has shown that he can be an effective defender with a knack for stripping the ball away. He's also not shy about cleaning the glass and his 6.5 RPG in his last full season shows it. He'll be at a height disadvantage in the NBA, but his tenacity should help balance things out somewhat.
The biggest strike against McCollum is his overall lack of speed. He was obviously quick enough to beat defenders in college, but his lack of a fifth gear could hurt him in the pros. Regardless, McCollum finds himself in a talent-starved draft class and he's going to get nabbed in the first round despite missing the bulk of his senior season. Most mock drafts have him going mid-first round, but there's a good chance we see him work his way up to the lottery.