McCallum Hoping To Represent USA At 2011 World University Games
Colorado Springs, Colo. • Aug. 1, 2011
Ray McCallum (Detroit Mercy/Beverly Hills, Mich.) is many things you would expect from a coach's son -- talented, knowledgable and hard working. Not many sons, however, chose to play college basketball for their father. As a highly recruited high school senior, McCallum did just that -- reporting to the University of Detroit Mercy as a freshman in 2010-11 under head coach Ray McCallum, Sr.
The 6-1 guard started in all 33 games and averaged team highs of 13.5 points and 1.6 steals along with 4.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He was rewarded as the 2011 Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and became the first Detroit Mercy freshman to earn all-conference honors with his All-Horizon League second-team selection.
This week McCallum is at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., as one of 14 finalists for the 2011 USA Baskteball Men's World University Games Team. Traning camp began on July 29 with 20 players, and the official 12-member U.S. roster will be announced prior to Aug. 8, when the team departs for Shenzhen, China, and the 2011 World University Games.
USABasketball.com sat down with McCallum to talk about his freshman season and what it would mean to him to wear a USA jersey in international competition.
What was your reaction when you learned you had been invited to training camp?
I got the invite about two weeks ago. I know Jordan Taylor and Tu Holloway weren't able to make it. They called me up right away, and I couldn't pass up an opportunity to have the chance to represent your country, play in an international tournament and win a gold medal. Once I got that opportunity, I was not turning it down, and I'm glad to be here.
Did you feel like you were in good shape when you got the invite?
Oh yeah. I've been training all summer. I got to participate in the Deron Williams Skills Academy and the LeBron James Skills Academy, and I've been working every day trying to get better, trying to stay focused, working on all of the things I need to do better next season. When they called, I felt like I was prepared.
Could you tell me more about the skills academies?
In college, they make you a college counselor for high school players. Since I am a point guard, I went to the Deron Williams camp in Chicago, and the Amare Stoudemire camp was also there for post players. From there, they invited the top five players from each position, and 20 of us got to go to LeBron's camp in Akron a week-and-a-half later. That was a great accomplishment for me right there. I was glad to be able to participate in that, and I played against a lot of guys who are here in those camps. I got a pretty good feel for some of the guys.
Can you point to an area you feel you have improved already this summer?
One of the main things is I've gotten a little bit stronger, a little bit quicker, older and more mature, and I've been working on my jumpshot a lot. Last year, I led our team in scoring, but I didn't shoot the ball as well as I needed to. Being a point guard, I have to be able to knock down open shots and make big shots to help my team win. That's my main focus this summer, and I'm feeling confident in my shot in my game.
You were highly recruited out of high school and chose to play for your fater at Detroit Mercy. How did you make that decision?
It was a long decision. It took me my whole senior year to decide. I took visits to I think four schools. I liked all of the coaches and everything they had to offer, but at the end of the day, I just couldn't turn down the opportunity to play for my dad. He knows my game better than any coach in the country. I decided to stay home and play for him, and it worked out great.
What is the dynamic like between you and your father now that he is your college coach?
It's great. I get to see him every day. Growing up, he was always gone a lot on the road. He's been coaching ever since I was born. So, through him, I've been around the game forever. Throughout high school, he wasn't able to make all of my games. When he was an assistant coach, he was always out recruiting and he wasn't always able to be there. Now, I get to see him every day and learn from him. To me, he's the best coach in the country, and he's just trying to prepare me, help me and lead my team to a championship.
Was your father a basketball player before he was a coach?
My dad played at Ball State, where he was the all-time leading scorer. And then one of his players, Bonzi Wells, broke his record. He was drafted by the Pacers and then got cut a year later and he got into coaching.
Do you think fans see a lot of your dad in your game?
Some people say they do, some people say they don't. A lot of people say my dad was a point guard, but all he liked to do was shoot. In me, they see a point guard who likes to pass and just be a true point guard. But everything I've learned in my game, I took from him. I've seen a couple of his films from back in the day, and he's really taught me a lot. I model my game after him.
Was there anyone who gave you advice about playing for USA Basketball?
Actually, when my dad was coaching in Indiana, he got to coach Eric Gordon, who played in the 2010 FIBA World Championship. He plays for the Clippers, so when he comes to town we get to hang out a little bit. He told me how it worked and what he had to go through. I just remember him telling me what he did, and I just tried to learn from that and tried to incorporate that into my game.
What was the most difficult part of your freshman year?
I think just coming in as a freshman and being a point guard, the hardest thing was trying to be a leader. You have guys who are seniors and you have guys who have been there for a while, and some of them don't really want to listen to a new kid, a freshman. One thing I think I earned is that after a while, I think my teammates respected me and really listened to me. I just tried to build a relationship with every player on my team. The game is more physical. Guys are quicker and stronger, but that didn't really affect me too much because I'm used to playing against high-level talent. This year I want to be a better leader than I was last year.
Have you already started to set goals for your sophomore season?
I definitely have already. We got our whole team coming back. We'll have six seniors. Last year we were kind of young. We had a couple of junior-college players, and it was a lot of people's first year playing Division I basketball. This year we'll have a really strong team. We are in a great conference with Butler. With everything that they've done, we are just trying to get to their level. We want to win, win a Horizon League Championship and try to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. I wish the best of luck to all six of our seniors, and I hope they can keep their careers going. The only way that is going to happen is if we do well this year.
What did it mean to you to earn Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and to be the first Detroit Mercy freshman to make an all-conference team?
It meant a lot. Honestly, I didn't know if I was going to get it or not. Our conference had a lot of good players -- two of them went on to get drafted. But, you know, it was a proud accomplishment and I was happy that I got it, but I know I can do even better. This year, I want to try to win Horizon League Player of the Year and make sure I'm on the Horizon League first team. I hope some of my teammates can join me as well.
You are now down to one of 14 players vying for 12 roster spots. How has training been going?
It's been great. I had a little travel delay on my way out here, and I did feel a little Colorado altitude the first day, but I'm good now. I've got my energy, and I feel like I'm getting better each day.
Mentally, how do you handle the pressure of trying to make the final roster?
You just got to come in and have confidence. Everyone here is a great player and you are all competing for 12 spots, so everyone is going to give it their all. For me, I just try to be vocal, be a point guard, be a leader and just try to do things that I know how to do. I'm not going to try to do things I never do. I just want to stay with what got me here, play my hardest and give it my all. At the end of the day, I will know I did my best, whether I make it or not.
What would it mean to you to go to the World University Games and represent your country?
It would mean a lot. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I've only played in overseas competition one time, and it wasn't as serious as this. This is the real deal. You've got U-S-A across your jersey and you're trying to represent your country and win a gold medal. I'm just glad to be a part of this and to have that opportunity.