McCants wanted limelight from the start
Posted July 7
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Three things we know for certain about Rashad McCants:
1.He wants center-stage.
This part of his personality was obvious from his earliest days in the North Carolina basketball program. That was during the summer and autumn of 2002, when McCants joined Raymond Felton, Sean May, David Noel and Byron Sanders in a Matt Doherty-recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 nationally by some of the services.
McCants, Felton and May were all ranked among the top 10 individuals, but only McCants arrived with an aloof, self-centered personality. Only 18-years-old at the time, he had the demeanor of a snooty superstar.
Now almost 30, and long removed from any hope of a successful NBA career, McCants’ actions during the past month smack of his lingering need for attention.
In a way it’s almost as though McCants still sees himself as the villain emeritus of the Tar Heels program and is jealous of the role P.J. Hairston assumed last season as McCants’ heir apparent.
That said, it is entirely possible McCants is being truthful in his allegations that the school’s administration, Roy Williams, Doherty and high-ranking athletic department officials knew about -- and condoned -- academic fraud.
Williams strongly denies those charges and he has a lot more credibility than McCants.
When McCants says he’s taking these actions for the “betterment” of children, to “save lives” and save “future generations,” it comes across as scripted, near-laughable rhetoric.
Maybe he’s being honest when he says he’s seen a “light at the end of the tunnel.” Maybe he’s changed. Maybe he’s become a caped crusader for academic reform in athletics.
But it’s just as likely that the “light” he’s talking about is the spotlight he wanted back.
2.UNC could not have won in 2005 without him.
As much as many Carolina fans may dislike McCants today -- as at a lot of them did during his college career -- the Heels never would have won the 2005 NCAA title without his offense.
McCants didn’t invest a lot of energy on defense and it caught up with him fast in the pros. But as Williams’ second Carolina team went 33-4, 14-2 in the ACC and defeated Oakland, Iowa State, Villanova, Wisconsin, Michigan State and finally Illinois en route to the title, McCants’ perimeter shooting was instrumental.
May was the best player during the Final Four and Felton was easily the most important piece in the team’s success, but McCants’ 16-point scoring average made the offense click in transition and from the perimeter against half-court defenses. His late free throw was crucial in a controversial 67-66 third-round win over Villanova at Syracuse in the East Regional.
Doherty, given a recruit mulligan today, probably would have focused instead on Julius Hodge or Jarrett Jack. Both were interested in Carolina as high school players, but McCants was from Asheville and deemed a better talent. As it turned out, Hodge won an ACC Player of the Year award at NC State and Jack had a fruitful college career at Georgia Tech and evolved into a much better NBA player.
McCants’ ego could get too big for the locker room and sometimes too big for the playing court. But credit is due where it’s due and he was vital in 2005, when Williams won his first national title and made Carolina basketball a national headliner again.
3.No retreating now.
Whether McCants will be remembered as a champion for reform, a self-centered scoundrel or perhaps both as the UNC saga plays out, he’s stitched himself into the fabric of the story now.
There’s no way for him to fold tent and run and it’s for sure he can’t go home again if he considers Carolina a home in any definition of the word. He’s not merely a part of the narrative, he’s talked himself into a lead role. This part of his life story will follow him for many years and his potential impact on the school and its sports could be more dramatic and longer lasting than memories of his jumpers against Michigan State and Illinois in St. Louis.
McCants the basketball player is gone. McCants the activist spokesman is the life he’s chosen.