CHICAGO – Every parent has dreams that their child will ascend to a higher, better level than they themselves did. You do that by passing along wisdom, discipline, and in some cases, sharing the pain of a hard-learned life lesson.
Ray McCallum is no different than any other parent in that regard. The difference for the University of Detroit men’s basketball coach, however, is that he has not only shared his knowledge of life with his son, Ray McCallum Jr., garnered through over five decades of existence, but also his knowledge of hoops.
“My dad’s really been my role model and my idol through my whole life,” the younger McCallum said.
Ray Jr. recently took part in the NBA Pre-Draft Combine in Chicago, which was special for each of the 60-plus participants that aspire to play in the NBA. However, for McCallum Jr., reaching the NBA would serve as an act of closure for the McCallum family.
In the summer of 1983, Ray Sr. had the achievement of being the Mid-American Conference’s all-time leading scorer on his resume, but at 5-foot-9, that wasn’t enough to impress the NBA scouts. The Indiana Pacers selected him in the eighth round of the Draft, but he was cut during training camp and his dream was extinguished.
“He’s always told me the stories about how he was drafted, but he didn’t make it,” Ray Jr. explained. “Ever since I was about five or six years old when he told me that, I’ve always had a goal in my mind to make it to the NBA, not only for myself, but for my family, as well.”
McCallum has excelled for his father with the Titans over the past three seasons. He was the Horizon League Newcomer of the Year (2011), and Player of the Year (2013), as well as a two-time First Team All-Horizon League selection (2012 and 2013). He spent his time scoring an impressive amount of points (18.7 points per game as a junior), but his height (6-foot-1 ¾) dictates that he be a distributing point guard in the NBA, not a scorer, per se. And he’s fine with that.
“One of the issues (with the NBA scouts), since I averaged (18.7 points), teams want to know what kind of point guard am I,” McCallum said. “Am I a point guard or a (shooting guard)? I’ve always been an unselfish player, someone that likes to get my teammates involved, especially when I’m on the court with high-level guys. That’s something that I’m good at.”
McCallum is also pretty good at testing athletically. He was every bit as strong in the various athletic tests that the point guard candidates were put through at the Combine. He was just 3/100ths of a second behind first round candidate Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse) in the three-fourths court sprint test, was significantly faster than Michigan’s Trey Burke (10.82 to 11.2) in the lane agility test, and leaped way past Germany’s Dennis Schroeder (40 inches to 34 inches) in the maximum vertical jump test.
“One of the things that teams don’t know is that I am one of the bigger guards here,” McCallum Jr. said. “I’m one of the stronger and more athletic guards. I’m really trying to showcase my athletic ability.”
McCallum Jr. doesn’t lack confidence, and neither did his father as a player in leading Muncie Central to the IHSAA State Championship (1978) and Ball State to its first NCAA Tournament appearance (1981), and he is using that belief in his abilities, as well as a sting from the past, to motivate him leading up to next month’s Draft.
“Hopefully, one day I can continue that dream that (my father) never really got to have,” McCallum Jr. said.