Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
The way the Michigan freshman big man has played on the big stage of the NCAA Tournament has NBA scouts buzzing about his upside.
“Since he started playing in the NCAA tourney he’s gone from a bench warmer to a first-round pick,” one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv. “He was outstanding in Auburn Hills.”
DraftExpress.com currently lists the 6-foot-10 McGary — who turns 21 in June — as the No. 9 pick in its 2014 Mock Draft, but he might consider coming out this year the way he’s been playing.
“Well he is obviously the main reason Michigan has advanced to the Championship game,” a second NBA scout told SNY.tv. “He should consider [coming out] unless he wants to stay one more year because he could be one of the top big man heading into next year behind [Kentucky’s] Willie Cauley-Stein.”
For the season, he is averaging 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds, but since moving into the starting lineup in the NCAA Tournament he’s averaging 16 points and 11.6 boards. He went for 10 points and 12 rebounds in Michigan’s 61-56 win over Syracuse in the national semifinal Saturday night.
“Mitch McGary played like a lottery pick tonight,” ESPN’s Jay Williams said of the game.
“He reminds me of David Lee,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said here Sunday. “Big-time athlete, David was. David really improved his shooting. Couldn’t shoot a lick. He was shooting air balls from the foul line in college. [McGary is a] great runner. Very active. Now he’s become a great passer. Tremendous outlet guy. Great basketball player.
“Everybody sort of talks about Trey Burke. He has really gotten better to the point where he’s one of the premiere guys in the country right now. He’s always been hard-nosed and tough.”
A Chesterton, IN native, McGary finished up his career at Brewster (N.H.) Academy.
Brewster coach Jason Smith said McGary “outplayed” current Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel last year and that Brewster went 3-0 against Tilton while Noel was there. Noel is projected as the No. 1 pick by man in this year’s draft.
“He also outplayed Steven Adams [of Pittsburgh] in the national [prep] semis and [Louisville’s Montrezl] Harrell in the national final,” Smith said.
Still, even Smith has noticed a jump in McGary’s level of play this year, especially recently.
“Mitch has always played with great energy and passion, maximum effort guy,” Smith said. “Very proud of his continued growth and improvement as the tournament has progressed. Winning has always been the most important thing to Mitch. He will do whatever it takes for his team to win.”
One more big game and McGary and Michigan could win the school’s first national championship since beating Seton Hall in 1989.
Said Michigan coach John Beilein: “I have a feeling that his performance just in the last month is going to propel him to even bigger and better things down the road.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.