Commentary

Pay attention to Mitch McGary

The No. 4 overall player in 2012 class has used his ADHD in his favor

Originally Published: June 22, 2011
By Dave Telep | ESPN Recruiting

Mitch McGary plays the game with a controlled rage. He's the guy who scores a big dunk and chest bumps his coach on the way down the floor. When he's not in the game, he'll wave a towel to get his squad going. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound center from Chesterton, Ind., is in constant motion, always moving like he can't sit still. Actually, he can't sit still. McGary is a diagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) patient. He doesn't run from the affliction; instead, he owns it.

"Many times your greatest strength is your greatest weakness," said Wayne Brumm, McGary's AAU coach with the SYF Players. "That ADD, when he gets going on the court, it's almost like he's on a sugar high. He gets zoned out, yelling and screaming, but it adds flair and a personality to him and without it he would be normal. It's been a great strength of his, but when he does get too wired up, it can become a weakness."

[+] EnlargeMcGary
David Dixon/TNL1Mitch McGary is the No. 5-ranked PF in the 2012 class.

McGary, the No. 4 overall player in the Class of 2012 , is riding a wave of spring and summer performances that have captivated observers in every setting. However, McGary, who now draws comparisons to Tyler Hansbrough, came very close to working in an Indiana mill rather than working the post against some of the best in the class.

A few summers ago, McGary was nowhere to be found. Academics used to be a problem and an obstacle to reaching his potential on and off the court.

"Last June he told me he was going to quit and get a job," Brumm said. "I knew that wasn't what he meant. What he meant was that he was tired of being perceived to be dumb. That's when I knew he had to get out of [Chesterton]."

When the decision was made for him to enroll at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, McGary found the academic structure he desperately needed.

"The small class size, the way they teach there; they divide the kids up and it's highly interactive," said Brumm. "The kids are totally engaged. It's been perfect for him. Mitch needed to learn how to study, develop good habits and critically think for himself. You look at him and you think he's a man, but when you spend time with him you realize he's a kid."

His game spiked last spring and Brumm recalled a point where he dominated on the court. As quickly as he found success, Brumm said McGary learned that success is fleeting.

"In June [2010], he agrees to go to Brewster," Brumm said. "He puts the ball down, he goes and bails hay for two weeks at a time and didn't touch a ball. He thought he could pick a ball up and begin where he finished.

"He was terrible last July. He got some attention because he had potential but he wasn't what he was in May. To this day, he's 50 percent the fundamental player he was a year ago."

As he embraced the structure of Brewster's academic programs, McGary also realized being the best player in Chesterton didn't mean much to anybody at Brewster.

"I was the best player on my home team," McGary said. "Moving out there with other high Division I players, playing with them turned me into a role player and that helped flick the switch. I had to play with more energy and be more productive if I wanted minutes. I started playing with that intensity and people started calling me "Psycho T." The switch at Brewster made me alert. I had to prove something and I had to play with energy."

It seems farfetched to think that a player with McGary's physical gifts and potential almost got lost in the shuffle. From the ADHD to the academics, McGary teetered on the edge of exiting basketball without a taste of the big time.

"Where Brewster really helped him was the academic and social culture there," Brumm said. "He knew that Brewster was his last chance."

McGary's mind is in a good place now. Last week at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, the word "beast" was thrown around by his peers as they marveled at his competitiveness and intensity. Andre Drummond (Middletown, Conn./St. Thomas More) slowed him down in a matchup. Others tried, few succeeded.

He's on a short list of guys who feel like they have to win every time out on the floor. You get the sense that McGary will stop at nothing to get what he wants on the court.

"I was always competitive when I was a little kid," McGary said. "Even in a game of Memory with cards I'd cheat with my dad to win. I kind of lost (that edge) in middle school and halfway through high school. To tell you the truth, in middle school, I didn't think I was going to play basketball. I was into sports and having fun with my friends. I was more of a baseball player but I had elbow problems. I turned to basketball and started growing more.

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David Dixon/TNL1 Right now, the Maryland Terrapins seem to be coming at Mitch McGary the hardest.

"If I'm at the energy level I'm capable of there's people that can stop me but I don't think they're going to work as hard as I do to get shots up, to rebound and to score."

The current version of McGary is a sight to see. The extra year at prep school allowed him to develop physically, emotionally and academically. He's put himself in a position to go from an unfocused talent to an imposing All-American candidate. In doing so, he's stared the specter of ADHD down and no longer runs from his problems.

"Don't be afraid to talk about this," said Brumm to McGary. "You get it out in the open and recognize it."

Wanted man

On the recruiting front, McGary is close to being able to call his own shot. There might not be a program in America that wouldn't take a commitment from him right now. If one of the nation's best coaches is in the middle of dinner with his wife when McGary calls, the coach is answering his phone.

According to Brumm, the list , which includes schools like Arizona, Texas, Florida, Louisville, Kentucky, Marquette, Maryland, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Duke and UNC, is long and won't be trimmed until after July.

"We haven't begun to narrow it down, but really he's got a chance to go anywhere he wants but we haven't really begun to narrow it down," Brumm said.

Recently, McGary visited the University of Maryland and new coach Mark Turgeon. The Terps are players and McGary cops to the fact that Maryland is recruiting him harder than anyone. The relationship began with an assistant coach who was retained by Turgeon after Gary Williams stepped down.

"Coach Bino Ranson, without a doubt {is on me the hardest]," McGary said. "I took an unofficial there last week. It's a whole new staff. I didn't know much about the school but I liked the campus."

Purdue offered him a full ride before anyone else did and his parents initially wanted him to be a Boilermaker. Both Purdue and Indiana have gathered large classes in 2012 and the contact between McGary and the in-state programs is sparse considering the array of national programs clamoring for his services. It'll be interesting to see if the Boilermakers or Hoosiers are able to reinsert themselves into the process this summer.

When it comes time to decide, expect McGary to seek a deep relationship with his coach. Playing time won't be an issue; he'll snap up his minutes. Brumm thinks McGary needs to find a coach with a proven track record of developing bigs, especially ones with the unique blend of post and perimeter that McGary deploys as needed.

The once-unfocused player has the attention of every program in America.

Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at espndt@gmail.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.