Junior says he's accomplished goals

Updated: April 14, 2005, 5:10 PM ET
Associated Press

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – For Rashad McCants, it's all about being like Mike.

He pretended to be Michael Jordan when he was a kid and took the reverse of Jordan's retired No. 23 when he arrived at North Carolina. After his sophomore season, McCants decided to come back to school for one more year, hoping to win a national championship – like Jordan.

Now, having helped the Tar Heels win their fourth title, McCants will follow Jordan's lead and go pro after his junior season.

A comparison to Jordan might seem a stretch, but McCants – a third team all-ACC selection this season – certainly didn't shy away from it as he formally announced his decision to enter the NBA draft.

Last year, "I figured I've got to come back and at least have something to say to Mike when I get up there and talk to him," McCants said at a news conference. "And say, 'Hey, I stayed three years just like you, and we won a championship just like you.' "

McCants, whose 16-point average was second among the Tar Heels, said he is hiring an agent, a move that would prevent him from returning for his senior season. But he said he would continue working toward his college degree.

McCants was joined by coach Roy Williams and his parents, James McCants and Brenda Muckelvene, for the news conference, making official a decision expected for more than a week. The day after the Tar Heels beat Illinois 75-70 in the NCAA final, Williams said he expected McCants to head for the NBA.

Williams said Wednesday that McCants had his "complete support" in making a move the two began discussing in January.

The coach credited McCants for maintaining his focus in the months since, a trying period that included Muckelvene's treatments for breast cancer and an intestinal disorder that sidelined McCants for four games.

The 6-foot-4 swingman's scoring fell from a 20-point average as a sophomore, but his all-around game improved. He took fewer shots, increased his assist total and played better defense.

"This is a youngster who sacrificed in a lot of areas to help his team, and I think that speaks volumes," Williams said.

McCants was part of a heralded recruiting class charged with restoring North Carolina after an 8-20 season in 2001-02. Along with classmates Raymond Felton and Sean May, McCants had a turbulent freshman season under Matt Doherty before the coach resigned in an ugly public split with his alma mater.

On Wednesday, when he was asked what he wants fans to know about him, McCants compared himself to a big, plain book in the library "that stands out but doesn't have a name on it.

"You start to get more and more interested as you read," he said. "As I found out early on in the season, I picked up the same kind of book and it's probably the greatest book I ever read. It was the Bible, and I compare myself to that as far as you can't judge a book by its cover."

McCants' natural scoring ability made him one of the nation's most dangerous threats; he finished his college career with 1,721 points, 14th in Tar Heels history.

"He's done everything he came to do in college," May said. "He helped turn a program that was 8-20 into a national powerhouse again. He has nothing else to add to his legacy."

McCants' decision means he won't be on campus when his sister, Rashanda, arrives to play for the North Carolina women's team next season. He said he couldn't pass up a "great opportunity for our family."

McCants' departure could be the first step in the deconstruction of the national champions. May, Felton and freshman Marvin Williams also are considering whether to return.

Felton has said he has made his decision but isn't ready to announce it, Williams has said he is leaning one way and May – who has said he plans to stay to school – now says he's not sure.

If all four leave along with seniors Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel and Melvin Scott, the Tar Heels will lose their top seven scorers.

Players who want to enter the NBA draft early must file by May 14. The draft is June 28.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press