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Monday, 9 December, 2002, 21:39 GMT
McGrady continues upward curve
Tracy McGrady goes for a jump shot against Scottie Pippen of the Portland Trailblazers
McGrady came into the NBA straight from high school

Tracy McGrady's progression as an NBA player has been nothing short of remarkable.

One frequently hears a pro athlete described as having improved every year he has been in the league.

It is a cliche used far too often, but in the case of McGrady the statement is spot on.

He's maybe one of the top three players in the whole league

Milwaukee Bucks coach
George Karl

Since 'T-Mac' entered the NBA in 1997, straight out of Mount Zion Christian Academy High School, he has embarked on a rapid uphill climb toward the ranks of the league's elite players.

In each season, McGrady has raised his average in points-per-game, rebounds-per-game, assists-per-game, and steals-per-game.

If he keeps this up, who knows how good T-Mac will be before all is said and done?

With one-quarter of the Orlando Magic's season gone, McGrady looks as if he may be able to raise those averages for a sixth successive season.

He is at the top of the NBA scoring list as the only player averaging more than 30 points a game, despite being hampered by injuries to his back and ankle.

On his way to being named the NBA Player of the Month in November, McGrady scored at least 30 points in 11 of the Magic's 15 games, including three 40-plus point performances.

McGrady looks as though he may be well on his way to unseating Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett for the unofficial title of 'best player to join the NBA straight from high school.'

Kobe Bryant
McGrady is drawing comparisons with Bryant

While Bryant and Garnett had a more immediate impact upon joining the league, McGrady's true potential has only begun to reveal itself.

The Toronto Raptors must be kicking themselves.

The Canadian franchise drafted McGrady in 1997 and, after keeping him on the bench for the better part of three seasons, gave him to Orlando in a sign-and-trade deal in the 2000 off-season.

Toronto then had to sit back and watch as McGrady won the NBA's Most Improved Player award for the 2000-2001 season.

McGrady now has his sights set on a different award - he finished fourth in the voting for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award last season and will look to move higher on the ballot this year.

Certainly that is a possibility, as McGrady now commands respect from coaches and players around the league, not simply from his team-mates.

High praise

After hanging 47 points on the Milwaukee Bucks in a 100-90 victory on 2 November, Bucks coach George Karl said McGrady is no longer a secret weapon.

"In preparation for this game we thought maybe he was the best player in the Eastern Conference," Karl said. "He's maybe in the top three in the whole league."

That is the impressive part about McGrady's progress as an NBA player - the more defences have focused squarely on him, the better he has performed.

New Jersey Nets coach Byron Scott may have said it best when asked about McGrady's potential to become an NBA superstar.

"It's scary,'' Scott said.

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