The 2012 Horizon League Player of the Year will not be around to go back-to-back. Detroit Mercy guard Ray McCallum, Jr. has announced that he will forego his senior year of eligibility and enter the NBA Draft. In a move that shocked most of Titan Nation, I saw this coming after Junior’s sophomore season, despite the fact that Ray McCallum, Sr. is still the Titans’ head coach. And with the improvements he made to his overall game last summer, the odds swung heavily in favor of him bolting in my mind.
McCallum (6-feet-3, 190 pounds) helped lead Detroit to its second consecutive postseason appearance with a trip to the NIT, along with recording its second straight 20 win season. He finished as the Horizon League player of the year, averaging 18.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists. In 2011, McCallum, Jr. led UDM to the NCAA Tournament and a first round loss to Kansas.
The school released two statements Saturday:
■ McCallum Jr: “It has been very special playing for my father and helping to build the basketball program to a championship level.”
■ McCallum, Sr: “It has been an outstanding experience coaching Ray. I am proud to see his growth over the lastthree years. As his coach and father I am supporting him in his pursuit to (become) a professional basketball player.”
Aside from the improvement in Junior’s game and the presumed advice he received from NBA scouts, I think other factors played into his decision. The Titans’ athletic department has been in turmoil since former athletic director Keri Gaither and former assistant hoops coach Derek Thomas were fired for having an improper relationship. A second former assistant coach, Carlos Briggs, was also fired shortly after Gaither and Thomas after filing a whistleblower report. The team spent the better part of this past season with only one assistant, Jay Smith, on the bench. The team also lost its second and third best players, Nick Minnerath and Doug Anderson, to graduation.
McCallum, Sr.’s contract also expires at the end of the 2013-14 season, so his status is in flux with a new athletic director coming on board shortly to replace Gaither. And despite an 87-80 overall record over his five year at the helm, I would not be surprised if his contract is not extended – whether it is a mutual decision or one made by the school.
As for Junior, he could be selected anywhere from the last first round into the second. Second-round picks are not guaranteed contracts by the team that selects them, but Junior will almost assuredly make an NBA roster. There won’t be many more athletic point guards in this year’s draft, which will be held on June 27. His athleticism is his calling card, but he’s also an extension of a coach on the floor and knows how to get in the passing lanes on defense. His jump shot is well-improved as he put up thousands of shots last summer, but needs to become more consistent. The other two areas of his game that will need improving to play at an NBA-level are his ball-handling. He’s adequate there, but relies too on going to his left too often. His on-ball defense also needs some work.
I wish Ray, Jr. the best as it took a lot of guts to choose UDM over Kansas, UCLA and Arizona – all who wanted him badly. I think he could have used another year of polish on the college level, but then again, who am I to say?