Brandon McCoy is anything but normal.
Being a five star recruit will do that for you. So it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise that when he announced his college decision on April 25, the Twitter-sphere immediately fell into anarchy.
McCoy, a product of Cathedral Catholic high school in San Diego, decided to spurn Oregon and Michigan State for UNLV.
Yes, this is the same Oregon team who just made it to the Final Four a month ago. The Michigan State program headed by one of the greatest coaches ever in Tom Izzo and who will return their best player in Miles Bridges. For all intents and purposes, the Spartans should be considered the title favorites for the 2017-18 season.
Yet, he chose the UNLV squad that went 11-21 last season and loses two of their top three scorers from the past season.
Confused? You’re not alone.
As you can expect, McCoy came under serious fire from all the “analysts” on Twitter, lambasting his “poor decision making.” After the failed collegiate careers of Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons, many were quick to hop off the Brandon McCoy hype train. In fact, I received heat for doubling down on McCoy’s future success.
However, look past the common preconceptions and you may find there is a method to McCoy’s madness.
Oregon has turned into a barren wasteland after losing SEVEN of their main contributors from last year. Sure, they picked a couple transfers — including former New Mexico Lobo Elijah Brown — another recruit, but the Ducks will be hard pressed to come close to the level of success they have attained the past couple of years. Wins would have been difficult to come by, especially in a conference projected to be as loaded as the Pac-12.
In East Lansing, the struggle would not have been with the competition, but with earning playing as he would slot into a Spartan front-court composed of returning stars Nick Ward and Bridges, along with incoming five-star incoming freshman Jaren Jackson Jr.
Did he really want to be in a situation like Marques Bolden’s and Wenyen Gabriel’s where he ends up getting buried on the bench behind players with a higher rating or more experience?
Meanwhile, UNLV provided him with an opportunity for big minutes and play in a mid-major conference that he could dominate while dragging his team to victory. Most importantly, it made him feel at home.
“It just felt right. I was comfortable with the players and the coaching staff and I knew it was the right fit.” McCoy said of picking UNLV.
Now, he won't even need to carry the load on his own. With the additions of Shakur Juiston and Amauri Hardy, McCoy will have a legitimate chance at not only a Mountain West title, but an NCAA berth. If this past year has taught us anything, it is that anything can happen in March. After all, the Runnin’ Rebels went to back-to-back Final Four appearances 27 years ago, including that 1990 national title.
Listed at 6’11” but much closer to 7’1”, McCoy has an NBA-ready body with an ideal wingspan for an elite rim protector. He finishes well around the rim and has a nice jump shot that could easily be expanded to three-point range.
Never was this diverse skillset more apparent than when he went coast-to-coast and finished with a thunderous dunk at the Ballislife All-American Game, an exhibition in which he won co-MVP honors. With this kind of profile, it’s easy to imagine that he would be jumping to the league as soon as he gets the chance. You couldn’t be more wrong.
“My focus is on the team. I know we can do it next year, we just got to put it all together,” McCoy told me. “We want to get UNLV back to how it was in the 90’s and ultimately win a championship.”
Say what you will about him, but you have to respect him for blazing his own path. He wants to be different and wants to revitalize a program that has been dead for over 20 years. Maybe he flames out like everyone wants him to and he becomes another one and done like Fultz and Simmons.
But maybe, just maybe, 20 years from now, people will remember him as the one who resuscitated the Running Rebels. Either way, McCoy will do what he wants. If you’re a college basketball fan, pull up a chair because it’s Brandon McCoy’s world now. And we are all just living in it.
*All quotes were obtained firsthand at the 2017 Ballislife All-American Game unless otherwise noted