When the scorebook column for points had a 54 written next to his name after his first game as a GlenOak High School junior, C.J. McCollum already had visions of playing college basketball.
That same confidence engulfed him midway through his sophomore season at Lehigh University when he thought about his childhood dream of playing in the NBA.
McCollum earlier this week withdrew his name from consideration for the NBA's amateur draft. He'll play his senior season at Lehigh.
From where I sit, that move tops all his acrobatic drives to the basket that had the Greensboro Coliseum crowd in awe during last month's NCAA Tournament.
The Canton, Ohio, native's decision to stay in college gives him another year to hone his skills and further develop his thin, 180-pound frame.
"I want to refine my game in every area," McCollum said. "I've got to continue to get stronger, work hard and raise my [shooting] percentages. I've got to pick it up a notch. Every summer's got to be better than the last."
Another productive offseason and dominant season will do wonders for his NBA stock for the 2013 draft.
"I've got almost nine pages of notes, some from NBA executives," said Lehigh coach Brett Reed, who served as the liaison between McCollum and the NBA.
"He has continued development of his overall basketball IQ, which is recognized as a strength, but it obviously can improve with experience. Demonstrating consistency at a high level is important."
Other underclassmen have either shown that consistency or think they have. There are, on average based on a half-dozen NBA mock drafts, 32 early entrants being projected first- or second-round picks and another dozen or so who are predicted to be undrafted free agents.
Another aspect of McCollum's decision had nothing to do with basketball.
The two-time Patriot League player of the year will be a college graduate by the time next year's draft rolls around. That is important to him and his family.
When McCollum has exhausted his days as a professional basketball player, the journalism major wants to be a television broadcaster. Being the next Stephen A. Smith, former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and ESPN's current resident loud mouth, is what he's picturing.
McCollum has befriended Lehigh alum Gary Howard, the editor-in-chief at The Sporting News. The junior is hoping to intern there this summer.
"Since I was younger, I wanted to be on TV," McCollum admitted. "I want to do what Charles Barkley does. I enjoy talking."
McCollum has let his game do a lot of the talking his first three seasons, though it was reported that he told North Carolina's Harrison Barnes in the halls of the Greensboro Coliseum between NCAA Tournament games to stick around to watch the show.
While many believe Stephen A. Smith is more noise than substance, McCollum delivered a memorable performance in leading Lehigh to its first postseason victory in program history by knocking out national power Duke.
But McCollum brings more than just God-given talent and athleticism to the court. He is a worker. He is the one doing a few extra hundred jumpers in an empty Stabler Arena at 11 o'clock on a Sunday night. He's the one watching countless hours of film.
"His self assessment is pretty strong," Reed said. "He has that type of perspective."
A perspective of next season's Patriot League season has Lehigh a clear favorite to repeat, thanks largely to McCollum, who should be the league's second NBA Draft pick (Colgate's Adonal Foyle was the first).
Bucknell, the 2011-12 regular-season champion, loses three-time defensive player of the year Bryan Cohen, but won't go quietly.
But, barring injuries or a breakdown in team chemistry or passion, the Mountain Hawks will be near the top of the eight-team mountain.
McCollum also should be at the top of league and school scoring lists with a strong senior season.
Undoubtedly, his name and No. 3 will be in the rafters at some point after his college career.
Fortunately for those wearing brown and white, that won't be until sometime in 2013.
Lehigh's C.J. McCollum made right choice by spurning NBA
Junior guard wants to get better, earn journalism degree
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