There’s a good chance you will see C.J McCollum’s name fairly high on every controversial ranking list coming out right now. There’s also a very good chance you had no idea who the 2016 Most Improved Player was when he was growing from a 5’2″ freshman to a 6’2″ senior during his unranked high school days. College fanatics discovered him when he was putting up 20+ points on a nightly basis during his first few years at Lehigh. But it was March 16th of 2012, when most of the basketball world first heard his name. That’s the day he stepped onto a court with the Plumlee brothers, Seth Curry and Austin Rivers — who was ranked the #1 high school player in nation — in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and left the court with this praise from Duke Coach K: “They had the best player on the court tonight in McCollum. He’s been their player of the year, and he’s really one of the outstanding players in the country. You could see why tonight.”
McCollum scored a game-high 30 points on a series of moves NBA players like Dirk Nowitzki and Victor Oladipo would later become familiar with, as the No. 15 seed Mountain Hawks beat the No. 2 Blue Devils 75-70 in one of the most shocking upsets of the decade. Well, shocking to the world but not to McCollum, who was telling everybody days before the game they were going to win. He even told his coach all he needed to do was score 30 points and dish out 5 assists to get the W; he got the 30, added 6 boards and the 5 assists with an extra one as the cherry on top.
McCollum penned a great story about the “Absolute Madness” of the game for The Players’ Tribune back in 2015. In it, he tells an amusing story about his neighbor laughing at him when he said he was going to guard Austin Rivers.
“Oh, well good luck with that.” Replied the neighbor. “Hey, if you have time, do you think you could pass him my number.”
I hope he went back to his neighbor and said 5-1-4-2-7-4-3-1-9-0. That means Rivers shot 5 of 14, 2 for 7 from three, finished with 19 points and left without a win. So how do you like them apples?