NEW YORK - C.J. McCollum isn't the typical NBA draft prospect. In fact, he chose baseball over hoops for a short time before getting bored going through the motions on the pitcher's mound.
"Basketball was my best sport," McCollum said Wednesday in a crowded room at the Westin hotel in Times Square as he prepared for Thursday's NBA draft.
"Baseball was boring. Plus I was allergic to grass, and I felt like basketball was right for me."
Instead of committing to a Division I basketball powerhouse, the Canton, Ohio, native chose Lehigh, just 50 miles north of Philadelphia in Bethlehem.
Though college players have moved toward the "one-and-done" mentality before pursuing pro careers, McCollum stayed at Lehigh and received a bachelor's degree in journalism.
Players also tend to leave college after getting national exposure. McCollum received his in an upset victory over Duke in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament. But he wouldn't leave the Mountain Hawks.
"Lehigh was good to me," the 6-foot-3 guard said. "They took a chance on me. They didn't have to give me a scholarship. I wanted to fulfill that promise of getting my degree and get better at some things on the court and get back to the NCAA tournament."
McCollum averaged 21.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 111 games for the Mountain Hawks during his career. He says teams value intelligent players who also have the ability to score.
Although he played at a small college, teams are projecting McCollum as a lottery pick in the draft. The 76ers have the 11th pick in the first round and worked out McCollum in an individual session at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
McCollum said that playing with the Sixers and Jrue Holiday is something he'd love to do.
"Jrue Holiday is a great player, and at the same time they need a scorer," McCollum said. "I feel like I can fulfill that role. I'm a guy that can come in and compete right now.
"I always tell teams when I meet them, I'm a guy who could have come into the NBA and competed yesterday. A lot of guys can't say that. Whatever team gets me will be very happy with my production."