McCants caught Tar Heels' eye in time

  • Article by: Steve Aschburner
  • Star Tribune
  • December 30, 2006 - 8:56 PM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - At no point during the University of North Carolina's pursuit of Rashad McCants as a coveted basketball recruit did McCants ever dream of the day that his uniform number would be retired.

Mostly because there wasn't any pursuit.

"There was no interest in me. I recruited Carolina," McCants said Saturday before the Timberwolves' game at New Jersey.

This afternoon, after the Wolves practice in Charlotte, a bus with coach Dwane Casey, assistants and any teammates who want to go will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., to see McCants' jersey hung in the rafters of the Smith Center. The Wolves' second-year shooting guard, whose second NBA season has had few highlights while he rehabs from offseason microfracture knee surgery, will get one today when he is honored with former classmates Raymond Felton and Sean May at halftime of the Tar Heels' game against Dayton.

"My junior year, my coach actually called and asked why they weren't recruiting me," said McCants, a native of Asheville who played at New Hampton Prep. "Like the reputation says, they'd heard I had an attitude. 'Showed too much emotion on the court,' which was not Carolina-esque."

That year and the following summer, however, McCants demonstrated leadership, defense and his full potential. Suddenly, his coach's calls got returned. McCants got a scholarship offer and immediately accepted.

The Tar Heels had been recruiting Carmelo Anthony and J.J. Redick. "But I was the first to accept," he said. "Those guys had a lot of offers on the table and they were deciding where they wanted to go, but as soon as I got mine, I sort of ended their recruiting process."

A three-year collegiate career that earned him NBA lottery-pick status and an NCAA championship ensued. And now, a jersey retirement.

"I don't know anybody who goes in there hoping to be just another basketball player. I know I wasn't," McCants said. "It's special to be a part of [that tradition], but to be remembered is a great feat."

McCants' return: 2 weeks?

Wolves fans are more interested in what McCants can do now. They might begin to find out in "a week-and-a-half, two weeks," he said.

That unofficial timetable would put him back in the lineup sometime between their home game Jan. 10 against the Los Angeles Clippers and their game at Detroit on Jan. 15.

While admitting to some discomfort in his right knee and limitations on bad days, McCants said most of his workouts recently have been good. He said he hopes not to be on a short leash, in terms of minutes, when he does return first to full practices and then to games.

"That would be a rush-back process, wanting to come back if I wasn't ready," he said. "But when I'm 100 percent and the coach knows it, it won't be five minutes here, five minutes there. I'll be ready to play."

Honor for Foye, too

Rookie guard Randy Foye, who grew up in nearby Newark, N.J., had his uniform number retired Saturday at East Side High.

"It was real quick, because I had to be back here," Foye said. Two oversized replicas were displayed, and Foye will be shipped a framed version.

Steve Aschburner •

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