Learn more about how Sacramento’s second-round pick developed into one of the nation’s top point guards under his father’s tutelage.
Sitting alongside family members and close friends in his Detroit home, Ray McCallum watched as pick after pick was announced during ESPN’s 2013 NBA Draft telecast, anxiously awaiting the moment his lifelong dream would come true.
“I had to wait four hours and 10 minutes to hear my name get called, but once I got the phone call (from the Kings), I was extremely excited and blessed,” he recounts smiling. “Words can’t describe the emotions that were going through my head at the time.”
Amidst the eagerness and anticipation, No. 3’s sister, mother and father helped keep him calm from 8 a.m. until Sacramento selected him with the No. 36 pick shortly after 11 p.m. EDT.
“We got to spend the day together – we went to the barbershop that morning, we went to the gym like we always have and got shots up and tried to make it a normal day,” says Ray McCallum Sr. “But he didn’t eat all day, so that tells you how (nervous) he was.
“We’re happy – he’s in a great spot, with an organization you just can tell from the top is the kind of place you want to be in.”
Unsurprisingly, the Kings draftee credits his father – his head coach at University of Detroit and a former Mid-American Conference Player of the Year at Ball State – for helping him thrive on the court and develop his competitive nature at an early age.
“I started playing basketball probably when I was around five – that’s when I went to my dad’s first basketball camp,” says McCallum. “I was by far the youngest kid in the camp, playing with elementary, middle school kids then. It was my first real experience with basketball. Over the years, I just grew (by) playing at the YMCA, different rec leagues … (and) AAU.
“He’s just taught me to work hard – it’s kind of a cliché, but hard work really does pay off. It took everything I learned from him and it’s put me in a great position today.”
As a high school junior at Detroit Country Day School – where Kings legend Chris Webber also honed his game – McCallum fine-tuned his skill set in scrimmages featuring then-Pistons stars Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
“I held my own,” he recalls. “I knew from there, if I keep working hard and stay hungry and humble, I might have a chance. Look where I am today – it paid off.”
A McDonald’s and Parade All-American as a senior, the 6-foot-3 guard emerged into one of the nation’s most coveted prospects, drawing scholarship offers from the likes of UCLA, Arizona and Florida.
Rather than opt for a major collegiate program, the crafty floor general decided to play for his father at Detroit, where he averaged 15.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game over three seasons – finishing his career ranked among the school’s all-time leaders in scoring (1,618 points – eighth), assists (451 – seventh) and steals (175 – fourth).
“At the end of the day, it came down to trust and who had the best interest in me, and I decided to stay home and play for my father,” he says. “To play for him for three years, it’s the greatest opportunity I had. I grew as a man and I grew as a player, as well.”
During his sophomore campaign, McCallum accomplished his top on-court objective as a Titan on a milestone day for him and his father.
“My main goal was to go in there and help change the program and win a championship, and we won the Horizon League Tournament,” he says. “It was my father’s birthday and we made it to the NCAA Tournament – something the school hadn’t done in 13 years.”
Last season, McCallum earned Horizon League Player of the Year and Lute Olson All-America honors after leading the conference in scoring (18.7 points per game) and steals (1.9) and ranking second in assists (4.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2).
“A point guard has to be a leader on the court – you have to know where everyone on the court has to be and what they’re supposed to do,” he explains. “It’s your job (to make sure) everything is run (correctly). You definitely have to get your teammates involved and keep the team on the positive pace, keep everyone confident and just keep everything under control.”
On Feb. 12, the Motor City native racked up 16 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and four steals in a win over Cleveland State, becoming the first Division I player to record such numbers since former Connecticut guard Ben Gordon in 2003.
Renowned for his basketball IQ and exceptional all-around skill set, McCallum guided the Titans to a second consecutive postseason appearance with a trip to the NIT in 2013.
“When you talk about Ray McCallum – a coach’s son – he has a great feel for the game,” says Kings Head Coach Michael Malone.
“(He’s) a point guard who is also a terrific athlete … (and he’s) a very good rebounding point guard. I believe he averaged a little over five rebounds per game and (he has the) ability to take care of the basketball and run his team.”
Reflecting on his son’s pivotal decision to play for Detroit, McCallum Sr. believes No. 3’s dedication and drive afforded him the opportunity to play in the NBA.
“He was named Parade All-American, he was named McDonald’s All-American, he won a state championship and he was MVP in the state championship – I think that really gave him the confidence (to say), ‘I can come to the University of Detroit and really make a difference and help turn it around,’” says McCallum Sr. “I think it was his sole mission – turn our program around, get us to the NCAA Tournament and be in the position he is today.”
Sacramento’s second-round pick says he remains happy with his choice.
“My father allowed me to play through mistakes, studied a lot of film and allowed me to become a better player,” he says. “I was always a winner and I felt like I became more of a true winner and a true leader there. I think it’s the best decision I’ve made.”
As his journey with the Kings begins, leading Sacramento’s Summer League Team, the 22-year-old aims to carry over his winning mentality, strong work ethic and history of success.
“Something I wanted to do when I was in college (was) stay at home, play for my dad and help bring the program back,” says McCallum, who’s averaging 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.7 assists through three Summer League contests. “I feel like it’s something Ben (McLemore) and I can do here – help bring back the organization and get it back to the top of the League.”
WATCH – One-on-One: Ray McCallum
Get to Know Ray:
– Pregame routine: “I just listen to music on my way to the gym and just get hyped. I listen to a little bit of everything, but mostly rap.”
– Nicknames: “’RayMac3’ – it’s my Twitter (handle).”
– Hobbies: “Just hanging out with my friends and family. Sometimes when I have free time, I play video games.”
– Favorite Movie: “Law Abiding Citizen”