A coach's son becomes a King: Meet Ray McCallum and his dad

Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

Ray McCallum Sr. was a collegiate star at Ball State University. His son, Ray McCallum Jr., got his start spotlighting as a dribbling phenom during halftime at Ball State games. The two have developed a close relationship built on the fabric of hard work and a determination to win.

As is the life of a college coach, Ray McCallum Sr. has had to move his family a lot throughout his career - seven times in fact.

Playing the role of an assistant coach at five of his seven stops, he's been tasked with a lot of scouting over the years. This left his wife, Wendy, as the one who shuttled their son and daughter to baseball, volleyball and, of course, basketball practice.

Because of this, new Sacramento Kings point guard Ray McCallum Jr. didn't get the pleasure of having his dad sit in the stands for many of his games as a child, but that didn't stop him from watching them later.

"My mom would film all my games," McCallum Jr. said. "He would get in to town the next day; we would sit down and watch them."

And this was in elementary school.

"The fundamentals were always stressed," said McCallum Sr., who as a player had a stellar collegiate career with Ball State University.

Sports Illustrated once said McCallum Sr. put the "Ball" in Ball State after leading the Cardinals to two straight Mid-American Conference titles on his way to becoming the school's all-time career scoring leader with 2,109 points. (Bonzi Wells would later break that school record while being coached by McCallum Sr. himself).

So it's safe to say he knows a thing or two about basketball fundamentals.

McCallum Jr. picked up a few things from his father early on. If the fact that his first words were "ball, ball, ball" isn't enough of an example, he was able to grasp the key fundamental of basketball, ball handling, at the age of six as a member of the "Little Cardinals" dribbling squad at Ball State. The youngest member of the group of 25-30 elementary-aged kids, the mini McCallum would take to the floor at halftime during the games his father was coaching in.

He hasn't looked back since.

"My dad was always tough on me, and when I say tough on me, I don't mean yelling and cursing and getting in my face. No, he was always pushing me and trying to get the best out of me in the right way and I thank him for that." - Ray McCallum Jr.

"They put me in the front and kind of let me do my own little solo. From that day on ... I had the spotlight on me I guess you could say," McCallum Jr. said.

He had another solo act in the spotlight more than a decade later during the 2013 NBA Las Vegas Summer League. Having been selected in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Kings and all the attention on first-round pick Ben McLemore, McCallum was under the gun to stand out in Vegas. He ended up averaging 12.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.2 steals. The Kings liked what they saw so much that they reportedly offered him a three-year contract.

"Ray McCallum is just one of the classiest young men you'll ever meet and a heck of a player," said Kings General Manager Pete D'Alessandro in a team statement.

The 6'3'', 190-pound point guard displayed poise in crucial moments, put the Summer League squad on his back the majority of the time and proved himself as a leader - all things his father, who was in the stands in Vegas, tried to instill in him at a very young age.

"He's taught me really to become a leader on and off the court, he's helped better my game and taught to me to become a winner," McCallum Jr. said. "My dad was always tough on me, and when I say tough on me, I don't mean yelling and cursing and getting in my face. No, he was always pushing me and trying to get the best out of me in the right way and I thank him for that."

In games where he would score 20-25 points, his dad would not go over the good plays, "it was always the bad plays," McCallum Jr. said.

"He was really teaching me something, he was teaching me how to get better," he said. "He was really breaking the film down and we would find the flaws in my game and the things I need to work on."

Teaching is in the fabric of the McCallum family dynamic, which has held strong throughout the years of moving and coaching changes. His parents pushed McCallum Jr. to focus on getting good grades. They made high performance in that area a requirement for him to be allowed to play basketball.

The bond with his parents and older sister, Brittany, is so strong that McCallum Jr. chose to stay local and attend the University of Detroit Mercy for college - where his father was, and still is, the head coach.

McCallum Jr. had many options for college. After highlighting his dribbling skills with the Little Cardinals, he went on to be selected as one of the nation's top 5 players while in fourth grade and later became a McDonald's and Parade All-American stand out at Detroit Country Day School. He received interest from Oklahoma, Florida, UCLA and Arizona. McCallum Sr. did not try to pressure his son to join him at Detroit. Instead, as his father, he helped him through scouting visits from the likes of Sean Miller and Billy Donovan.

McCallum Jr. had to make a tough decision: go to one of these top schools or do something he had wanted to do since he was young - play for his father. It seems keeping the family together played a role in the rising star's decision to join Detroit.

"He evaluated everything and then said, ‘hey I am going with you dad, I'm going to stay home,'" McCallum Sr. recalled. "It was pure joy and excitement. It was a delight for me, for him, our family to keep our family together."

Under the tutelage of his father, McCallum Jr. was on a mission to make a name for the small private school that has a student body of just over 5,500.

"At the end of the day, it really came down to trust and what did I want as a player, and I wanted to go somewhere where I could make an impact from day 1, change the program around and, you know, that's something that I did," he said.

The program was certainly changed over the three seasons he was there. In 2011-12, the Detroit Titans, with one McCallum on the bench and one on the floor, won the Horizon League Championship and landed in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 13 years. In his sophomore year, McCallum Jr. averaged 15 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.6 steals. In his junior year, he increased his numbers in all of those categories and was named the Horizon League Player of the Year.

And now he is ready to take on the role of point guard alongside Isaiah Thomas and Greives Vasquez for a Kings franchise that has hit restart on its future under new ownership, new management and new coaching.

"This is kind of a new era in Sacramento, with all the new changes coming along and with the fan's support and the team staying, so I think it is going to be a special time and I'm just very excited to be in an organization where I think I am going to have a chance to grow and try to help make a difference," McCallum Jr. said.

What immediate impact he will have on the Kings is uncertain as he likely will find himself behind Thomas and Vasquez in the rotation, but he welcomes the competition.

"That's good, I think that's something that is good for the team, just to be hungry and the will to try to win and go out there and kind of prove yourself," said McCallum Jr., who became close friends with fellow rookie Ben McLemore during the Summer League.

The man who groomed him for this moment says his son is in good hands in Sacramento.

"You've got some great basketball minds that are respected by the league from the top of the league on down," McCallum Sr. said of the Kings. "It's going to be a franchise that will be turned around very quickly because they know what they are doing. They are going to maximize their talent, for sure, and they are going to build a winner."

McCallum Sr., who was drafted into the NBA by the Indiana Pacers in 1983 but never made the roster, has now developed a friendly rivalry with the kid who got his start as a dribbler on the Little Cardinals. While he admits his son does pretty much everything better than he did on the court, there is still one thing he says he was more skilled at.

"He does everything, but he doesn't shoot like I did. He's got the shot, he's got the form, everything is there, but he doesn't stroke it quite as well as his dad yet," McCallum Sr. said.

To that, one of the newest Sacramento Kings, who shot 38 percent from the field in Summer League, had this response.

"I might not have the shot he had, but he doesn't have all the things that I got though," McCallum Jr. said with a laugh. "He showed me some of his clips when he was in college, I've seen them my whole life. It's like the same highlight tape; he plays the same one all the time."

McCallum Sr. said he won't be able to make it out to Sacramento for Kings games as much as he would like due to his coaching responsibilities in Detroit, but that surely won't prevent the proud dad from watching "tape" from afar and talking fundamentals with his son.

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