TUALATIN — It only took CJ McCollum two weeks of his first semester of college to realize he didn’t want to be a business major.

But before he could shift over to the journalism school, become an editor on Lehigh University’s student-run newspaper and earn his degree, he had to convince his mother switching majors was worth it.

“She wouldn’t let me switch out of business so I had to write her something. And once she read it and approved it, I was allowed to switch,” the Portland Trail Blazers guard recalled after practice on Saturday. “She didn’t want me to major in journalism.”

McCollum joked that that was probably the most serious piece of writing he had put out at that point in his life. His mother-approved essay helped launch his interest in journalism. Now as an established NBA starter with a background — and future — in sports media, McCollum is giving back to Portland youth who have similar journalism dreams.

McCollum on Thursday launched the second season of his mentorship program, CJ’s Press Pass, where 20 high school students from the Portland area get an inside look at the world of professional journalism.

The students will attend the Blazers’ game against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday where they will get a tour of the arena, a chance to sit in on a postgame press conference and a question and answer session with McCollum, Damian Lillard and Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool.

The students will be tasked with producing written, audio or video content based on their experience. McCollum who will personally review the submissions and select a winner on March 24. The winner will be recognized on air during McCollum’s weekly radio show, Playlist, a two-hour show on iHeartRadio that airs on Friday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight.

In addition to the game coverage experience, CJ’s Press Pass connects students with Prep2Prep, a Bay Area organization that will provide students in the program with opportunities to cover local high school sporting events and receive mentorship throughout the school year.

“The mentorship stuff is big just because I know a lot of kids don’t have an idea of what they want to do,” McCollum said. “I know that I didn’t know. Besides playing in the NBA, I didn’t really have a plan. You create the plan as you go. So, I want to paint the picture for the kids early. Not just in the journalism field but just different careers that are available to them.”

McCollum also launched the CJ McCollum Dream Center at the Portland Boys and Girls Club in November, renovating a room at the Northeast Portland club and outfitting it with new books and computers.

He hopes to expand both the Press Pass program and open more Dream Centers in the future, but for now, McCollum is hoping just to open a few eyes for local kids. After all, he was set to become a business major before he literally wrote his way out of it.

“I wanted to work (with) kids who are transitioning from that middle school to high school level and that high school to college level, who don’t have a plan but know they like journalism,” McCollum said. “I want to help paint the picture for what it will be like for them. That’s kind of why we put the program in place.”

For now, McCollum is comfortable with his day job where he has blossomed into one the of the league’s most lethal and efficient scorers. But he knows a future in sports media is on the horizon whether it’s as a television analyst or some other yet to be explored avenue.

While he’s giving students in the Press Pass program a chance to explore the journalism field, he’s had some forays of his own. He writes for The Player’s Tribune and has worked for the league doing on-camera interviews during the NBA Finals and briefly hosted his own sports radio show on Sirius XM. Luckily, his writing was strong enough as a teenager that his mom let him switch majors because that change allowed him to eventually open new doors for a group of high school students and himself.

“I don’t know what I want to do (in sports media),” he said. “But I just want to have my resume wide enough to where I can just pick.”

–Mike Richman

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.