In the past few years, a minor college hoops trend has emerged. Every once in a while -- so sparingly that it can barely be called a trend -- a high school junior decides to graduate high school in three years, forgo his senior season, and become a freshman at his school a year early. As college hoops trends go, this is the new new thing.
Perhaps the most notable recent early-entry case is that of Duke's Andre Dawkins, a top recruit who joined the Blue Devils last year and played well early in the season before eventually seeing his minutes fade down the stretch. A handful of other players have made similar leaps in the past few years. None of them have made a major impact.
That could change soon. James McAdoo, an athletic 6-foot-8 forward from Norfolk, Va., is the No. 3-ranked player in the country in ESPNU's class of 2011. He's also verbally committed to the North Carolina Tar Heels. He is, by all accounts, an impact college player in wait. And he's considering doing what Dawkins did before him -- skipping his senior season at Norfolk Christian High School and heading to Chapel Hill this fall.
The move makes sense. North Carolina is in desperate need of big men after the Wear twins' defection to UCLA earlier this spring. Justin Knox, a transfer from Alabama, will help to alleviate that need, but it's unlikely Knox is a game-changer in the ACC. Which means McAdoo could step in and play right away, at once helping the Tar Heels and proving himself worthy of an NBA lottery pick a year earlier than expected.
There are also problems here. Can McAdoo finish his schoolwork on time? Does he want to miss his senior season? Do his parents want to throw him into the collegiate fire this early? In general, is it healthy for 17-year-olds to be freshmen hoopsters at big, pressure-cooker basketball destinations like North Carolina and Duke?
McAdoo's situation is different from the early-entry decisions we've seen in the past few years, because McAdoo would be far and away the best player to make such a leap in the recent past. If he decides to go, he would effectively become the face of the early-entry trend, as Luke Winn wrote yesterday. McAdoo would be the one high-profile player people associate with "17-year-olds" and "college basketball." And the future of this trend -- whether it moves from sporadic occurrence to legitimate recruiting consideration -- could have a lot to do with how McAdoo performs.
In other words, stay tuned. This one's worth keeping an eye on.