The nation's elite college programs fawned over Ray Jr., who took official recruiting visits to UCLA, Florida, Arizona, Oklahoma and also contemplated playing for dear old dad.
Rather than kidnapping his son, Ray Sr. wanted Ray Jr. to experience the recruiting process, viewing it not only as a reward but also as a chance to grow and learn.
Hit the road
Since his playing days ended, Ray Sr. has served as an assistant at Ball State (1983-84), Wisconsin (1984-93) and Michigan (1993), was head coach at Ball State (1993-2000) and Houston (2000-04), and was an assistant at OU and Indiana (2006-08) before taking over at UDM.
A close-knit family that also includes wife, Wendy, and daughter, Brittany, went along for the ride.
Ray Sr. said he believes this vagabond existence helped his son become a better player. “He's moved around a lot, and in his case, I think it's really helped him,” Ray Sr. said. “He's had to prove himself everywhere he's gone.”
After jumping from place to place his entire life, when it came time decide where to play college ball, Ray Jr. chose to stay right where he was.
Even with all that exposure to big-time college basketball, Ray Jr. was more heavily influenced by an opportunity to play for his father.
“Sitting behind the bench (as a child) at Detroit is not quite the same as sitting behind the bench at Oklahoma and Indiana,” Ray Sr. admitted.
Many assumed it was a foregone conclusion Ray Jr. would sign with UDM, but the father wasn't so sure. “I'll tell you what,” Ray Sr. said, “I had my worried moments.”
Sampson said he wasn't at all surprised Ray Jr. chose to play for his father. “If you knew that family, it wasn't a surprise at all,” Sampson said.
Ray Jr. said the biggest reason he chose Detroit was he wanted to help his father succeed.
“He's been my coach my whole life,” Ray Jr. said. “He's taught me everything I learned, so why would you not want to go out and help your family, you know? So that's what it was really all about.”
Feeling a draft
Ray Sr. was the 164th player picked in the 1983 NBA Draft, an eighth-round selection by his home state Indiana Pacers. One of the final cuts at training camp, Ray Sr. wound up back at Ball State as an assistant coach four months after being selected.
His son's goal is to be picked in an NBA Draft that is now just two rounds (60 players total).
Though being a coach's son is no picnic, playing for your father can lead to even more torture. And yet Ray Jr. managed to thrive.
“Having my dad as a coach, I didn't ever look at it as having any pressure. ‘OK, he's my dad and my coach and I'm supposed to be good.' I never looked at it like that,” Ray Jr. said.
On June 7, Ray Jr. returned to Oklahoma for a private workout session with the Thunder. “It went really well,” Ray Jr. said. “Honestly, it was one of the best workouts I had.”
Whether McCallum is asked to return to Oklahoma remains to be seen. OKC has pick Nos. 12, 29 and 32 in Thursday's draft. McCallum projections range from No. 38 to No. 53.
Birth date: June 12, 1991
Hometown: Beverly Hills, Mich.
School: Detroit (Mercy)
2012-13 stats: 37.3 mpg; 18.4 ppg; 5.2 rpg; 4.5 apg; 2.0 spg; .477 FG; .715 FT
Strengths: Good decision-maker who takes care of the basketball. Athletic with good speed. Plays taller than 6-foot-2, thanks largely to a 40-inch vertical jump. Perimeter shooting improved last season. Excels in transition and loves to attack.
Weaknesses: Average size and length (6-foot-1/4 without shoes; 6-foot-3 1/4 wingspan). Must be quicker working off pick-and-rolls. Inconsistent shooter. Didn't face elite competition. Will likely struggle defensively with lack of size and strength.
How he could help the Thunder: Could be a candidate at the No. 32 pick. A non-guaranteed contract could grow into role as a backup for Russell Westbrook, a player he admires. Would be on reserve if Reggie Jackson's extension is too expensive.
Projections: No. 38 (cbssports.com); No. 43 (espn.com); No. 47 (draftexpress.com); No. 53 (nbadraft.net)
Quotable: “Little Ray always knew where his father was in the stands. His father would give him a look like, ‘Play the game.' When I saw that, I was like, ‘That's real father-son love right there.' He tries to teach his dad these little dance moves — this upper-body type thing — but his dad is more old school. It's hilarious. Big Ray tells us all time, ‘Back in the day ...' ” – former UDM teammate Eli Holman, who has known the McCallum family since Ray Jr. played high school ball in Bloomington, Ind.
Ray McCallum Sr.: Earned first-team All-Mid-American Conference honors his last three years at Ball State and was MAC Player of the Year as a senior. Finished as the MAC's career scoring leader with 2,109 points. Was the first Ball State player in any sport to have his number (No. 10) retired. Only he and Bonzi Wells (No. 42) have had their numbers retired at the school. Won the state championship his junior and senior seasons at Muncie (Ind.) Central High School. Born March 6, 1961, in West Memphis, Ark.
Ray McCallum Jr.: Averaged 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists to lead Detroit's Country Day School to a state high school title his senior year. Named to McDonald's All-American team and finished third in the Michigan's “Mr. Basketball” voting. Played his first two high school seasons at Bloomington (Ind.) North, while his father was as an assistant at Indiana. Chose to play for father at Detroit (Mercy) despite being recruited nationally. Named 2013 Horizon League Player of the Year as a junior.