C.J. McCollum, ’13, will not be singularly defined as Lehigh’s motor that dethroned Duke University in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. McCollum’s wrath on the Patriot League is over, but after an offensive explosion to begin this season, NBA teams know McCollum is far from just a college talent.
A re-broken foot and spotty playing time in his first two seasons with Portland hid the former Mountain Hawk, but now as a starter for the Trail Blazers, there’s no ignoring the 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound matchup nightmare.
Last season, McCollum averaged 6.8 points per game. This year he’s up to 20.1 through 14 games.
On opening night this season, McCollum dropped 37 points and six rebounds on the New Orleans Pelicans. It was against this team that McCollum cemented himself in NBA opening night lore, as the only players to record 37+ points and 6+ rebounds are among the game’s elite. McCollum joined Anthony Davis, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Stephen Curry. Of the players he joined, three are former league MVPs, a sixth man of the year in Harden who finished second in last year’s MVP voting, and Anthony Davis — arguably the most exciting young prospect in the league.
Other notable McCollum performances came Nov. 4 at Charlotte, where he recorded 27 points and four assists, and again at Memphis, notching 26 points and six rebounds
McCollum’s most valuable asset is his 3-point shooting, as just 14 games through this season, he’s shooting close to 37 percent from beyond the arc.
The starting job for McCollum was helped made possible by the offseason departure of former Blazer sharpshooters Wesley Matthews (Dallas Mavericks) and Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets). McCollum has seized the opportunity and earned himself among the top prospects for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.
McCollum’s Blazers sit at a mere 12th place in the Western Conference with a 5-9 record, far away from being on pace to match their 51-31 mark just last season. Yet McCollum has seamlessly adapted to his starting role, becoming an integral part for each game for the Blazers, using his full offensive arsenal to help get Rip City back to the postseason.