Can Ray McCallum (Unicaja Malaga) Make It Back To The NBA After A Season In Europe?

There are many great things to observe when entering the Brose arena in Freak city Bamberg like the overwhelming and amazing atmosphere that the fans give the players or seeing ex NBA player Dorrell Wright make that next amazing highlight reel memory or just sitting back and reminiscing about the good old days when Marcus Slaughter was finishing alley-op dunks with authority, ex NBA player Casey Jacobsen dropping clutch three´s from the corner or fans spelling Kyle Hines name wrong with Heinz. However at anytime in good times back then or in even bad times now as the Trinchieri era ended recently, fans are always served up a delectable menu with great players during the Euroleague season. Almost every opponent has at least one ex NBA player on board and many great European players. When the big name teams like Real Madrid and Panathinaikos enter the Brose arena you may get lost in the smorgasbord of fancy names or get wrapped up in a tasty German hog dog or pizza slice or even smuggled something in from the REWE supermarket under the arena, you may even mix up a name or two if your NBA knowhow isn´t that advanced the classic Lebron, Steph or Russ names. However sometimes that simple error can arise like recently when Spanish top team Unicaja Malaga played in Bamberg and one read the name Mccallum. For the NBA amateur´s one may have thought that CJ McCollum had taken a break from his scoring tantrum´s and taken a rest from the NBA and moonlighted to Europe, but at closer watch, it was the name Ray McCallum who also played in the NBA, but didn´t reach the notoriety of a CJ McCollum of the Portland Trailblaziers that easily belongs to the top 10 shooting guards in the NBA currently averaging 21,4ppg. Sometimes reading a name right and seeing that only an A and a O separate the names of two players is beneficial as the NBA worlds of CJ McCollum and Ray McCallum are currently about as far away as the Boston Celtics are from winning an NBA title this season with the absence of Kyrie Irving. Mccollum has helped lead the Portland Trailblazers to the third best record in the west behind Golden State and Houston at 49-33 while Ray Mccallum is playing in the best country league in Europe in Spain with Unicaja and trying to lead them to a ACB title. This season Bamberg swept Unicaja Malaga in the Euroleague and won in Bamberg 93-88 despite 13 points from Mccallum. The American remembered his first experience with German basketball 7 years ago. “I definitely remember playing in the World University games with Draymond Green and Darius Miller. I’m happy to see those guys are doing well and having a lot of success in the NBA. Germany along with the other teams in the tournament were challenging. That was my first experience with the physicality of European basketball”, stressed Ray Mccallum. After 4 professional seasons in the States and three in the NBA, Mccallum came overseas to try something new, but like any other player that has gone this path still has the NBA in his rearview mirror. “I feel I belong in the NBA and that’s where I want to be, but at this point in my career I knew that coming to Malaga was the best decision for my career”, stressed Ray McCallum. But before his European basketball vacation started, he first had to mature as a player in the NCAA and get valuable NBA experience that will help his game further in Europe.

McCallum is a 26 year old 190cm point guard born  in Beverly Hills, Michigan and got his first taste of basketball at Bloomington high school north in Indiana. He then finished at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills, Michigan where he led the team to a state championship where in the final he scored 32 points, 8 rebounds and 7 steals. In his senior year he averaged a stellar 22,5ppg, 7,5rpg and 5,5apg. He was seen as a top 50 high school player in the country and finished third in the Michigan Mr basketball voting. He went into the NCAA as a top 5 point guard in the nation and 17th best. His strong senior season prompted interest from such powerhouse schools like UCLA, Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma, but instead he chose Detriot Mercy. For the novice NCAA follower you might have said “Detroit Mercy what”, but the American had good reason to pick that school. The school hasn´t bred the most amazing well known talent as one could say that Ray McCallum is the best known coming out of there and other than that the school brought Desmond Ferguson to the NBA and also had ties to Germany as former players Keith Gray and Rashad Phillips have gained professional experience there as well as lesser known players like Torvoris Baker and Ethan Shaw. The reason he chose Detroit Mercy was so he could play for his dad. One has to wonder how he would have developed further at a more known basketball school, but he did more than just fine, but excelled on the court. He was able to lead his team to a Horizon league title in 2012, and led them to an NCAA tournament appearance in his sophomore season only the 6th in school history losing to Kansas where he chipped in with 8 points. He was able to improve his scoring average each season and as a senior played 33 games averaging 18.7ppg, 5.1rpg, 4.5apg, 1.9spg, FGP: 56.0%, 3PT: 32.3%, FT: 71.7%. He scored in double figures in 28 of 33 games and scored 20 points or more 18 times. He had huge games against Green Bay netting 30 points and 26 points and produced 29 points against Wichita State. He was close to a triple double against Cleveland State with 16 points, 13 boards and 8 assists. He picked up some nice awards being the first player is school history to be named to the all-Horizon league team as a freshman and also was named to the all-Horizon League first team in 2012 and 2013 and was MVP as a senior.

McCallum decided to skip his senior season and decided to declare for the NBA draft after his strong senior season and was rewarded being picked up in the second round at #36 by the Sacramento Kings. He played his first two professional seasons with the Kings and except for a short stint with Reno in the D-League where he played 7 games averaging 20.0ppg, 3.4rpg, 4.3apg, 2.0spg, FGP: 48.4%, 3PT: 39.3%, FT: 67.9%, he amassed 108 games with the NBA squad. He was a sound role player that averaged 6,4ppg as a rookie and in his sophomore campaign averaged 7,8ppg. He scored in double figures in 37 NBA games and had some memorable games against the Lakers with 27 points, 23 points against Portland, 22 points against New Orleans and 20 points against his future team San Antonio. He had a nice ride with the Kings, but that came to an end after two seasons as the NBA once again proved that it´s a business first as players can be exchanged as easily as a Kim Kardashian does her sunglasses. His third professional season was a roller coaster that some may have seen as negative as he bounced around from two NBA teams with the Spurs where he played 30 games averaging 2,3ppg and also played 10 games for the Memphis Grizzlies averaging 6,9ppg. He also had his second stint in the D-League with the Austin Spurs (D-League) playing 9 games averaging 17.3ppg, 3.9rpg, 4.8apg, 1.3spg, In those 40 NBA games combined, he would only score in double figures 5 times, but did see extended minutes with the Grizzlies and scored 14 points in 35 minutes of action in a 113-102 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers. He played his last NBA game against the Denver Nuggets losing 109-105 scoring 1 point in 7 minutes, but at least got to witness a star in the making in Serbian phenom Nikola Jokic. Even if he didn´t know it then, his three year NBA career of 140 games was over for the time being, but he wouldn´t have given it up for anything. “All the teams through my NBA experience has helped shape me into the player and person that I am today. Starting off in Sacramento, getting to learn and play behind Isaiah Thomas helped me bring out a fearless mentality and taught me to always play with a lot of confidence. Then going to San Antonio and learning from Tony Parker, a future hall of fame player and Coach Popovich, arguably one of the best coaches in all of sports, they really taught me how to be a winner. I’ve been fortunate to have some very talented and great leaders as teammates and coaches to look up to early on in my career that’s helped put me in the position that I’m in today”, warned Ray McCallum. Last season in his fourth professional season he tried for the NBA once more signing with the Detroit Pistons, but being waived on October 24, after 3 preseason games. He finished the season with the Grand Rapids Drive (D-League) playing 42 games averaging 17.7ppg, 5.7rpg, 7.0apg, Steals-2(2.2spg), FGP: 47.4%, 3PT: 31.3%, FT: 78.1%. He was a monster scoring in double figures in 39 of 42 games and produced two triple doubles against Maine and Grand Rapids. He did garner interest from the Charlotte Hornets and  and got two 10 day contracts, but he never played a game. Despite no added NBA game to his resume, he didn´t see the season as lost. “It wasn’t a disappointing season. I definitely wanted to be playing in the NBA, but I used my time in the D-League to my advantage. I used it as an opportunity to play major minutes and through mistakes and all those things helped me become a better player last year”, stressed Ray McCallum.

After playing in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, NV with the Houston Rockets last summer where he played 3 games averaging 6.3ppg, 1.0rpg, FGP: 50.0%, he decided that it was time for a change. He didn´t hesitate long after the NBA Summer League and didn´t speculate about going to another NBA training camp and signed with Euroleague team Unicaja Malaga on August 1st. “I needed to play and keep growing as a player and I thought the best decision was to come to Malaga and play on a big stage with the Euroleague and ACB”, added Ray McCallum. The American has had the opportunity to compete on two big time stages with the Euroleague and ACB league in Spain and been very solid. At the moment the Spanish side is in seventh place and looking to solidify that playoff spot.” I think we have a good team with a lot of talent. We’ve lost a lot of close games this season, but it’s all starting to come together now. I’m looking forward to us moving in the right direction come playoff time”, stated Ray McCallum. For many players coming from the NBA to Europe is a huge culture shock as there are many things different, but one of the biggest changes is that one sees less one on one play, and more team play especially in the Euroleague. Another big change is the less minutes that players get. The American averaged 36 minutes last season in the D-League and this season 18 minutes in the ACB and 21 minutes in the Euroleague. “When I first got it here it was an adjustment for me, but as the year has gone along I’ve realized how the European game and NBA are very different. I’m now focused on being a more efficient player with less amount of time on the floor”, stressed Ray Mccallum. An added bonus on top teams isn´t only the vast talent from many different countries that not only helps team basketball, but in Mccallum´s case having other ex NBA players like James Augustine on board to make the whole new process easier to digest. “Having James has been a great help. He’s taught me the ropes all year long and showed me what to expect. He’s been a true veteran leader for me to follow through my first European experience”, said Ray McCallum.

In the ACB, he has put up respectable stats in 18 minutes averaging 8,1ppg, 2,2rpg and 2,6apg. IN the ACB he has scored in double figures in 10 games including a 20 point game against Real Madrid. In the Euroleague he averaged 9,3ppg, 2,3rpg and 2,7apg. He was solid and consistent in 30 games scoring in double figures in 14 games. He played against Real Madrid 4 times and came out only as the winner once. But he had real fond moments of each game against one of the world´s most famous sport brand. “Playing against Madrid was a game I had circled on my calendar. For me, I always want to compete against the best and see where I stack up against some of the best players. Knowing that Madrid is one of the top teams in Europe, I was really looking forward to playing in that atmosphere”, warned Ray McCallum. The American also will never forget competing against the world´s best 19 year old in Luka Doncic who scored in double figures in each game and gave the name filling up the stat sheet a new meaning for 19 year old Euroleague players. Doncic is a guaranteed 2018 NBA first round pick and should from sheer talent and experience be the #1 pick, but probably won´t be because a US kid like Deandre Ayton will most likely get the nod and going with an American college boy has almost always been the trend. “I think Luka Doncic is a great player, has a lot of talent and his ceiling is very high. I was most impressed by him being so poised at such a young age and knowing his game”, added Ray McCallum. Even if his stats aren´t mindboggling like in the D-League, he has had to get used to the process just like most other ex NBA players in becoming better as a team player and just being better all around player. If McCallum had stayed in the states, he might have found the jump back to the NBA or be in the D-League putting up the same sort of stats like last season, but he wouldn´t be the player he is right now. “Playing in Europe this year has helped me a lot. I’m getting better at running the team and becoming more efficient overall. I’ve become a better defensive player this year than I have in the past”, warned Ray McCallum. If McCallum ever does land with another NBA team and plays another NBA game is unknown at the moment, but one thing is for sure he most likely will play NBA Summer League this summer. He most likely will cross paths again somewhere with ex coach Gregg Popovich in the arena who most likely have a big smile on his face after seeing his game after a season in Europe. With added experience in Europe, Mccallum will most likely have past the test in Europe and having come back home having grown more as a player with that special tag team player on his jersey something that can only add plus points in Popovich´s book and many other NBA coaches as Ray McCallum looks for another chance in the NBA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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