Rashad McCants: High Expectations

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High Expectations
Timberwolves fans can expect big things from rookie Rashad McCants.

By Jeff Benyon

Before becoming a Timberwolf, the last on-court appearance fans may remember of rookie Rashad McCants was his shirtless celebration after his University of North Carolina Tar Heels team won the 2005 NCAA National Championship by defeating Illinois 75-70.

In three seasons at North Carolina, McCants averaged 17.6 points. He became known across the country as an offensive threat. He has great scoring instincts and the ability to knock down three pointers and mid-range jumpers. He has a quick first step enabling him to beat defenders off the dribble and can easily create for himself. All those things are apparent just by watching him on the court. What isn’t apparent is who he is off the court.

Throughout his college career, McCants was involved in some controversial incidents causing many to question his attitude and teamwork. Those questions continued right through his individual workouts for NBA teams which many feel caused his stock to slip on draft day.

“Enigma” became a popular way of describing him. Appropriate, maybe, but also somewhat unfair. When asked about the reputation that popped up in most scouting reports, McCants said: “I don’t know. Those are things that are out of my control, what people write, what people say…People have perceptions of you, and usually they follow those perceptions when they meet you."

Adam Lucas is the publisher of Tar Heel Monthly and in an article last year he wrote how McCants was often misrepresented.

"The irony is that many of the most hurtful things that have been said or written about him were done without the author ever taking the time to actually speak to the subject,” Lucas wrote.

“…Get past some of the bravado, though, and there’s an insightful, intelligent, thoughtful young man… as his teammates began to chip away his shell [during his time at North Carolina], they saw more of the charming personality that, when turned on, can win over even the harshest skeptic.”

Since joining the Timberwolves, McCants’ teammates and coaches have had no complaints.

“He’s been great,” first-year Timberwolves head coach Dwayne Casey said. “I called all of my coaches and friends in the NCAA [before the draft], and they all said, ‘Don’t take the guy, don’t take him, don’t take him, he’s this, he’s that.’ I haven’t had one ill moment with him. He’s been coachable, he’s been prompt, he’s been on time, he’s worked hard in practice, so he’s been everything opposite of what [critics said].”

McCants feels being in the NBA and in Minnesota is a chance at a fresh start.

“I definitely feel, with a new opportunity, at a new level, I’ll be able to prove a lot of people wrong,” he said.

It also helps that he has a leader like Kevin Garnett to learn from.

“We’ve had a lot of heart-to-heart discussions,” McCants said of KG. “He wants to make me better and he lets me know the little things that I do wrong and keep showing me the things that I do right.”

In his first offical NBA game McCants has a rough shooting night going 3-of-12 from the floor. It was Garnett that took a moment to calm the rookie down.

“Young people like to get crunked – and for all y’all who don’t know what crunk is, down south it means to get hyped, so I had to hit him in the chest a couple times to get him crunked and I just told him take what the defense is giving you and if you have a shot take it and if not be aggressive and give somebody else a shot… the good thing about him is that he does listen.”

“He gives me tremendous confidence out there,” McCants added. “I got the best player on the planet pushing me, you can’t ask for much more.”

It’s in the blood McCants isn’t the only basketball player in his family. His younger sister, Rashanda (19), led her Asheville (N.C.) High basketball team to three state championships. As a senior last year, she lived up to her billing as one of the nation’s top female prep prospects, averaging 20.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game for the undefeated (32-0) 2005 Class 3A state-champion Cougars.

The 6-3 Rashanda was voted North Carolina’s Associated Press Player of the Year, and her selection to the McDonald’s All-American game meant that Rashanda and Rashad were the first-brother sister duo to participate in the annual high school all-star event (Rashad played in 2002).

This fall Rashanda is following in her older brother’s sneakers at the University of North Carolina where she will play for the Tar Heels and wear the number 32 – the same number her brother wore as a Tar Heel.

Big brother offered some advice to his little sis’ who takes over his old stomping grounds at Chapel Hill.

“I told her to keep her eyes up and enjoy herself, but at the same time know when to separate the books from the parties and be careful what you do,” Rashad said.

The McCants siblings don’t get to see each other very often, but when they do, Rashanda says she is always trying to get her older brother to play one-on-one.

“We went to the gym over the holidays (last year), and I challenged him to a shooting contest,” Rashanda told the Orlando Sentinel. “He beat me, but I told him that was only because we used a men’s ball. It was fun.”

While growing up Rashad and Rashanda didn’t play against each other all that much, but according to Rashad whenever he went out to play, he noticed he would have a shadow.

“She always followed me around and watched me played,” he said. “And whenever she could, she’d got out there and play on her own. I always knew she would be this big because she works hard for it.”

Rashad and Rashanda come from an athletically gifted family. Both of their parents played basketball and their cousin, Cameron Maybin, was selected 10th overall in the 2005 Major League Baseball draft by the Detroit Tigers. Another cousin, John Avery, played college football at Mississippi and was the 29th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. He played briefly with the Vikings in 2003 and is now with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

“This family is going places, you really can’t fight it,” Avery said. “…the best thing to do is just lay back and enjoy the show.”

Fans in Minnesota are hoping for a big show from McCants, and he’s looking to give them one.