Lehigh's McCollum Ready for Next Level After Stellar Season

Lehigh's C.J. McCollum

July 17, 2012

"We're about to take it to you guys."

When he heard that taunt, it all came rushing back. All the slights, all the doubts, all the schools who thought C.J. McCollum was too small, or too thin, or too out of position to play big-time college basketball. The words were uttered by a Duke player during layup lines prior to the Blue Devils' NCAA tournament second-round game against Lehigh last March in Greensboro, N.C. The player directed his taunt right at McCollum, a 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard and the reigning Patriot League Player of the Year. McCollum did not suffer it gladly. "I'm a laid-back kind of guy. Most of the time I just play the game," he says, "But I wasn't happy about that at all."

So McCollum gathered his teammates and delivered an important message, right there on the court: "Be ready to play." Recalling the moment last week, he flashed -- ahem -- a devilish smile. "I already had a lot of motivation in that game, but that just added fuel to the fire," McCollum said. "Win or lose, I wanted to make sure we played as hard as we could."

What transpired over the next two hours was the stuff of legend. Little C.J. McCollum from little Lehigh from the little Patriot League took it right to the biggest, baddest program in the land. McCollum sliced through the Blue Devils for 30 points, six rebounds and six assists as 15th-seeded Lehigh stunned No. 2 Duke, 75-70. It was just the sixth time in NCAA tournament history that a No. 15 seed had defeated a No. 2. (It was also the second such upset that day, coming a few hours after Norfolk State knocked off Missouri.) The game was straight out of Hoosiers, with McCollum still echoing one of that movie's most memorable lines. "I felt like I was representing a lot of other guys from small schools around the country," he says. "I wanted to show we can play with anybody."

The triumph has led to some very big things for C.J. McCollum. He was one of 45 elite college players who were invited to work out in front of dozens of NBA scouts last week at the Nike-sponsored LeBron James Skills Academy at Rancho High School in Las Vegas. McCollum's inclusion in that group sealed his status as an All-America candidate entering the 2012-13 season. And his performance in those sessions fortified his reputation as a future pro.

To read the full article by Seth Davis of SI.com click here

For more on McCollum's experience at the LeBron James Skills Academy and last week's ESPY Awards, read this article from Tom Housenick of the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call and this piece from Michael LoRe of the Easton (Pa.) Express-Times