C.J. McCollum has fueled two of Portland’s biggest wins in the playoffs this postseason. He helped keep the Trail Blazers alive with 30 points in a Game 6 victory on Thursday. In the 4-overtime classic in Game 3, he tallied 41 points for the 140-137 triumph.
It wasn’t that long ago that he was a G-League (then NBDL) guard for the Idaho Stampede in 2014. Before that, he was a talented guard coming out of Lehigh and one of the very few 1st-rounders to ever come out of the Patriot League. Earlier than that, he was a 5-foot-2 freshman guard at Glen Oak High School in Canton (Ohio) before a growth spurt.
A tight-knit family, including supportive parents and another basketball-minded brother, helped McCollum develop into the superb player he is today. Let’s take a look at the McCollum’s.
1. Both C.J. & Damien Lillard’s Mothers Moved to Portland With Them
— Adi Joseph (@AdiJoseph) February 11, 2016
The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Cohen wrote back in 2016 about how Damien Lillard and McCollum, both NBA Draft 1st rounders out of small schools, lived with their mothers in their early days in Portland. C.J’s mom Kathy Andrews would go over to the Lillard’s for “family bonding.”
McCollum’s mom didn’t know many people when she moved to Portland. But it turned out there was someone else in the area who had the same schedule: Lillard’s mom. The mothers of the Blazers’ best players are now friends. They hang out without Lillard and McCollum. The four of them also hang out together.
“If there’s a boxing match, or a Ronda Rousey fight, or a big game, I always have something at my house,” Lillard said. “C.J. and his mom will always come.”
With Mother’s Day taking place on the same day as Game 7 between Portland and Denver in the Western Conference semifinals, Andrews will be in attendance at Pepsi Center. C.J. expressed a little bit of regret for making her travel on her special day.
It’s unfortunate that she has to spend Mother’s Day at a game, but I’m sure she’ll enjoy it if we’re able to come away with a win,” he told Yahoo Sports. “I always tell her everyday is Mother’s Day.”
2. C.J. Promised His Mother He Would Get His Degree From Lehigh Before the NBA
Great story on C.J. McCollum and his relationship with his mother. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! https://t.co/PYx5DM5IOc
— Lehigh M. Basketball (@LehighMBB) May 8, 2016
McCollum is interested in many things from journalism (he’s interviewed NBA commissioner Adam Silver) to community service. It’s no surprise, as his mother made him promise her that he would get his degree from Lehigh before bolting for the NBA.
When McCollum wasn’t obsessing over his craft on the court, he was focused on his other major area of interest. He wrote for student newspaper, The Brown and White and served as the assistant sports editor. When he returned to Lehigh for his senior year, McCollum explained in a piece he penned for The Sporting News that it was partially because he promised his mother he’d get his degree in four years.
“I’m not just a dumb basketball player who got lucky and graduated from college,” McCollum says. “My ratio for professor to student was nine-to-one so it wasn’t like I wasn’t going to class. I was going to class every day.”
McCollum received his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Lehigh on May 20, 2013.
3. His Father Erick McCollum I Worked with Kathy to Push C.J. to the NBA
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Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers out there especially mine. I love you. Thank you for helping shape us into the men we are today. Thank you for teaching us the importance of sacrifice, hard work and dedication. Thank you for teaching me how to treat a woman. I’ve learned so much and continue to learn from you daily. I appreciate you and am grateful for everything you’ve done. The struggle is over, enjoy this care free life 🙏🏽
His father is Erick McCollum I. After C.J. took home the NBA Most Improved Player Award in 2016, he talked about his father’s guidance to Oregon Live.
But McCollum saved his longest remarks for his family. His father, Errick, sat directly in front of the podium and CJ shared a story about his father encouraging him to skip out on a college party to get extra practice while he was a student at Lehigh University.
“He said, ‘You think those parties are fun now, you make it to the NBA those parties will be a lot better. So you need to go to the gym.’” McCollum recalled. “I was on the phone looking at my friends like, ‘Dang, he’s right.’ So I went to the gym first and then I went out with my friends for a little while.”
It’s not like Kathy is the one who goes easy on her son. Later in the article, she joked about the only single-digit scoring output he had in 2015-16.
“She calls me and says ‘CJ, what’s wrong?’ I’m like, ‘Nothing’s wrong, mom. I’m good.’” McCollum said. “She’s like ‘Well you told me to quit my job and I’ve been working for 30 years and I quit my job, but if you’re going to play like that I might need to go back to work.’”
4. C.J.’s brother Erick McCollum is a Successful International Basketball Player
C.J’s brother Erick McCollum II has played professionally overseas since 2010. He scored a school-record 2,789 points at Goshen College from 2006-10. He was also an NAIA DII All-American each year, including a first-team selection his senior season.
Since turning pro right after, he has played for the following teams internationally (country in parantheses):
2010–2011 Elitzur Netanya (Israel)
2011–2012 Hapoel Kfar Saba (Israel)
2012–2013 Apollon Patras (Greece)
2013–2014 Panionios (Greece)
2014–2015 Zhejiang Golden Bulls (China)
2015–2016 Galatasaray (Turkey)
2016–2017 Beikong Fly Dragons (China)
2017 Galatasaray (Turkey)
2017–2018 Anadolu Efes (Turkey)
2018–present UNICS (Russia)
The 2016 EuroCop MVP in 2016 has the full confidence of his brother, who talked to EuroHoops in 2018 about Erick’s NBA potential.
“I think he’s been ready (for the next step) for awhile now,” C.J. said. “He’s in a great opportunity, happy with the situation he’s in, the playing time he’s getting and the type of impact he’s able to have on his team.”
5. C.J. & Eric Were Taught to be Very Close
In an interview with Uproxx in March 2017, C.J. talked about how his parents stressed “brotherhood” between him and Erick.
“C.J. was three and a half years younger than me and very small growing up,” Errick said. “But when I wanted to do something or go somewhere, my parents would always say ‘If C.J. can’t go, then you can’t go’. I didn’t always want him to come along but that was what our mom always stressed. Even when we would fight or argue, our father would always remind us that your brother may be the only person you have in this world. Because of that, I think that’s why we developed such a close relationship and bond.”
Without the bond between the two, C.J. acknowledges he wouldn’t have made it this far in his career. He told For The Win in July 2017:
“I wouldn’t be in the position I am today as an NBA player if (Errick) didn’t push me to work hard and to take not only basketball seriously, but academics seriously. Essentially, my mom was at work a lot of times and he was the one in position to co-parent me,” C.J. said. “He’s my best friend, and I’m thankful to have him in my life to this day.”
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