On Point: Ray McCallum

by July 23, 2013

by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista

It didn’t take long for Kings’ second-round pick Ray McCallum to turn heads. In his second game at the Las Vegas Summer League, the 22-year-old point guard scored 23 points on 7-10 shooting, with 3 rebounds and 6 steals.

Summer League play is tough to measure—people scout stats and intangibles—trying to gauge what will translate to the NBA level. The position is especially tough as a point guard, facilitating for teammates you’ve never played with, and most you will likely never play with again.

In his five starts for the Kings, McCallum averaged 12.6 points (38 percent shooting), 4.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.2 steals. In his final game against the Hawks, he notched a double-double of 12 points and 11 assists. Hawks’ starting point guard Dennis Schroeder, the 17th overall pick, finished with 15 points and 5 assists.

McCallum chose to play for his father, head coach Ray McCallum Sr, at University of Detroit Mercy, turning down offers from higher visibility schools. It is a decision that comes with inevitable questions that often do not get posed to players from elite DI programs. But the tide is turning in the NBA. Paul George, Damian Lillard and 2013 10th overall pick CJ McCollum have helped usher in a new era, showing how much talent exists within smaller schools. McCallum, who just signed his contract with the Kings, is an example of a player who chose a smaller market, knowing it provided a big foundation.

On coming from a smaller program, McCallum says, “What’s funny about that is CJ [McCollum] and I, and Isaiah Canaan as well, we’ve always had to play with a chip on our shoulders. We’re all pretty good friends and that’s something we’ve always talked about. Coming from a small school, you don’t always get the respect. I feel like when we get an opportunity to play in these types of settings, that we really have to be on top of our game to show everybody that we deserve to be here. Just because we took a different route to get here, doesn’t me we can’t play.”

On his decision to play at Detroit despite higher profile offers, he says, “It was definitely a tough decision. Coming out of high school, I had a lot of high-major offers. Took visits to four of the schools and at the end of the day, I decided to stay home and play for my dad. It was just a great opportunity for me, I couldn’t have turned it down. I don’t regret anything about it. I think it really paid off. I got better as a player and as a person and I really grew and matured in my life. I wouldn’t regret anything about the decision, and I was happy that it worked out the way it did.”

As a junior, McCallum averaged 18.7 points (49.1 FG%), 5.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals. Regarding his decision to declare for the Draft, he says, “I had to really weigh my options and really decide and figure out what would be the best decision for me–whether to come back for my senior year or to take my game to the next level. I definitely got all good information and the right feedback from people in the NBA and my dad. He was talking to the right people, so that was really beneficial. At the end of the day, this is my dream and my goal, so I decided to go for it, and it really paid off.”

“I feel like it was time for me to make that jump,” he adds, “I feel like it was just time for me to take my game to the next level and get even better. How can you not get better by playing against the best players in the world and getting some of the best coaching in the world? I felt like my game was right, NBA ready. Once my father also told me it was time for me to go, I had all the confidence in the world to make that jump.”

McCallum was selected 36th overall by the Kings, a team reclaiming its roots in Sacramento after a long struggle to determine the future—and location—of the franchise. The team now operates under new ownership, with a new general manager in Pete D’Alessandro and new head coach in Mike Malone.

On his draft expectations, McCallum says, “I knew I had a chance to go in the first round. I was told that I could go late first round, early second round. Ended up going early second round. Everything happens for a reason. I think I’m in a great situation, with an organization who believes in me in the Kings. I think they really see a future for me and they’re going to let me grow. I’m happy with my decision and I’m truly blessed and happy with the team I ended up on.”

While the Kings will work toward shaping their roster and forming an identity, they do possess one of the most loyal fan bases in the NBA. “As soon as I got drafted, my twitter started blowing up like crazy. The fans have showed nothing but love and support and I’m just excited to get out there and play in front of them, and get the opportunity to meet them.”

His first chance to play as a pro has been during Summer League. “My mindset was just to come out here and show everyone I could play and answer all the questions that everyone had asked about me,” says McCallum, “For me, I really wanted to see where my game was at. During the whole draft process, you play a lot of three-on-three and one-on-one. I wasn’t able to play any five-on-five for a while. This is kind of my first time playing five-on-five for the summer, and I think I’ve improved in a lot of areas and became a better player.”

While McCallum begins his NBA career, he has already shown poise and potential, holding his own against competition that consisted of NBA veterans and first-round picks. When talking about his path and the paths of many others out of smaller programs, he says, “It shows that it doesn’t matter where you go, it’s just what you do.” Summer League is a perfect example of that. A melting pot of journeys, paths and promise, on the same floor, playing to show they belong.