One of the Orange’s highest rated recruits since Carmelo Anthony; Chris McCullough entered his freshman season with lofty expectations. What he showed fans through the first stretch of games proved that he was as good as many thought. But, in the last few weeks, McCullough has seen a huge drop off in production and an increase in fouls.
Just 11 games into his collegiate career, the freshman is currently averaging 11.5 points per game and 8.1 boards per game, which is more than most could have asked for from a true freshman. But, looking at the big man’s last few performances, the Orange may have something to worry about.
McCullough started receiving NBA Draft attention from Chad Ford at the end of November, which made a lot of people unhappy, especially head coach Jim Boeheim. Instead of allowing the projections to boost the his player’s ego, Boeheim has used press conferences to bring McCullough back down to Earth, and his stats have dropped back to Earth, too.
While Boeheim wants McCullough to stay through next season, his comments seem to be getting to McCullough. No longer is McCullough playing with the confidence he possessed in the early going when he was filling the stats sheet with points, blocks, rebounds, and getting to the line. It’s one thing to rationalize a player’s skill set, but Boeheim criticized McCullough’s game after the dominant win versus Colgate. There were plenty of positives to be talked about, like Trevor Cooney’s reemergence, Kaleb Joseph’s improved play, or any of the other contributors. Instead, Boeheim focused on McCullough’s poor play, and his point has become more than clear in the last month. His comments can be seen here.
McCullough had scored in double digits in the first eight games of the season, but has only scored a total of 12 points since. In the most recent three games, McCullough has shot just 2-of-16 from the field, including 0-for-4 against Villanova, when the Orange needed him most.
In addition to the drop in points, the big man has been in foul trouble consistently. Averaging just 2.75 fouls through the team’s first eight games, the freshman fouled out in back-to-back games against Louisiana Tech and Villanova, and added two fouls on Monday night. He played an average of 35 minutes in the first chunk of games, but fouls and coaching have cut that down to just 25 in the last three.
The head coach may have had his reasons for saying what he did. Perhaps he knows the Orange can only succeed in the ACC if McCullough plays a huge role, and he’s trying to get the most out of him with tough love. But maybe JB’s tactic is messing with McCullough’s confidence as well. McCullough is a tough kid and will be a great basketball player, but Boeheim has to be careful to not step too far over the line to put the freshman into his shell.
Posted: Jason Weingold