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James Michael McAdoo’s return boosts North Carolina’s hopes of contending next season

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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James Michael McAdoo (Getty Images)

At the end of a disappointing sophomore season in which he did not emerge as one of the nation's top players the way many expected, North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo had a difficult decision to make.

Leave school now and hope his upside is enough to entice an NBA team to select him in the first round? Or stay another year and hope to play his way back into the lottery in the 2013-14 season?

That McAdoo chose the latter option is great news for a North Carolina program hoping to return to the nation's elite next season. At worst, he solidifies his team's frontcourt and makes the Tar Heels a threat to Duke in the ACC. At best, he develops into one of the nation's premier players and elevates North Carolina into the national title picture.

"I am ecstatic about having the opportunity to coach James Michael for another season," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said in a statement. "He's an incredible young man who did some really nice things this year. He's going to be an even better player in the future. Coaching young people like James Michael is what makes me enjoy coaching so much."

[Also: Projected top-five NBA pick Marcus Smart stays in school]

Though McAdoo averaged a respectable 14.4 points and 7.3 rebounds as a sophomore, there were glaring holes in his games where he can improve. He has an impressive physique and athleticism but he is neither a true post-up threat nor a consistent mid-range shooter, which leaves NBA teams unsure if he's well-suited to play either forward position at that level.

Where McAdoo does excel is his quick first step to the basket and his ability to attack the offensive glass. Were he to develop some other areas of his offensive repertoire, he could yet live up to the potential that made him a consensus top-five recruit in the class of 2011.

With top 50 recruits Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks set to bolster the frontcourt and sophomore big men Brice Johnson, Joel James and Desmond Hubert also returning, North Carolina should be better inside than it was a year ago. The backcourt will suffer from the loss of Dexter Strickland to graduation and Reggie Bullock to the NBA draft, but the return of starting point guard Marcus Paige, standout wing P.J. Hairston and top reserves J.P. Tokoto and Leslie McDonald will help.

That nucleus should have North Carolina in position to build on its strong finish to the 2012-13 season. The Tar Heels could still add Andrew Wiggins and instantly become a national title threat, but even without the nation's No. 1 recruit, this is a roster potent enough to do some damage next season.

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