March 12, 2012

McCallum won't surprise Kansas

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Had it not been for Ray McCallum's decision to join his father, Ray McCallum, Sr., at Detroit, the 6-foot-2, 188-pound sophomore guard from Beverly Hills, Mich., could have very well ended up playing for Bill Self and the Jayhawks.

"Ray is good enough to play for anybody, anywhere," said Self. "Certainly, whoever guards him, Elijah Johnson or Tyshawn Taylor, will have a big challenge ahead of him."

Coming out of Detroit (Mich.) Country Day, McCallum finished his senior year as the No. 43 player in the Class of 2010, and the 12th-best point guard. Early on in his recruitment, the former four-star floor general received scholarship offers from Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Detroit, Duke, Michigan, Arizona, Florida and other elite college basketball programs.

During an interview with McCallum back on July 10, 2008, the current Detroit guard told Jayhawk Slant that Kansas was the team to beat in his recruitment. Despite the numerous scholarship offers, the Jayhawks, with Self and Kurtis Townsend leading the way, had moved to the top of McCallum's list.

"Kansas is my leader right now," McCallum said then. "Kansas is a school that I like a lot. I like the way they play and I really like Coach Self. He is a real cool dude. Kansas is a great program, has great fans and it's a great place to play basketball. Plus, Coach Self is such a great guy.

"I received a phone call from Coach Self the first day he was allowed to contact prospects in my class," he added. "That was a real cool experience for me. Kansas just won a national championship and Coach Self is calling me to talk. That was just real cool."

As much as McCallum loved the University of Kansas and its coaching staff, turning down the opportunity to play for his father at Detroit was too much to ask. A member of the 2010 McDonald's All-American team, McCallum ultimately decided play alongside his father.

"Ray's been around a long time and of course he was the head coach at Houston," Self said. "He was a heck of a player himself. (Assistant coach) Kurtis (Townsend) knows Ray better than me, but he's a really nice man and a good coach. He was able to convince the mother of his best player (McCallum, Jr.) that Detroit would be the best place for him to go.

"I got to know Ray (McCallum, Jr.) and his mother because we recruited Junior," he added. "He's a terrific player and a terrific guard. I'm happy for the success he's had there. This is a league that just went to the National Championship the last two years, so it's a very competitive league."

[ Rivals on Yahoo! Sports Radio: Detroit coach Ray McCallum joins David Nuno ]

Not surprisingly, McCallum, Sr., couldn't have been any happier with Ray's decision to sign on with Detroit. Following a 17-16 season, McCallum, as a sophomore, guided the Titans to a record of 22-13 and a Horizon Conference Tournament Championship.

After falling to Valparaiso twice in the regular season, Detroit, in the Horizon Tournament Championship game, topped the Crusaders, 68-50. McCallum led the way with 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field, pulled down six rebounds, dished out three assists and finished with four steals.

McCallum, for much of this season, has been a star for Detroit. He enters Friday's first-round matchup against Kansas averaging 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game. In 35 games, he's scored in double-figures 31 times.

At times this season, McCallum has been absolutely dynamic for Detroit. He went for 20 against Notre Dame (six-point loss), 21 against Youngstown State, 21 against St. John's (six-point victory), 22 against Valparaiso, 23 against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 26 against Illinois Chicago, 20 against Butler (four-point victory on the road), 22 against Youngstown State (Horizon Conference Tourney), 26 against Cleveland State (Horizon Conference Tourney) and 21 against Valparaiso (Horizon Conference Tourney Championship game).

"He is a good guard, I have been hearing a lot about him these last few years," said Taylor when asked about McCallum. "He is tough, and I'm sure he is going to be aggressive since the team runs through him. They have five guys that average double figures and they have guys who can score from every position.

"Throughout the week we will learn more about their offense and what they run," he added. "We don't know too much about them (now), but I'm sure we'll be well prepared by Friday."

By now, No. 2 seed Kansas is well aware that Detroit is far from a one-man band. While McCallum receives a majority of the attention, four other players, Chase Simon (13.5), Nick Minnerath (12.0), Eli Holman (10.9) and Jason Calliste (10.4) average double-figures in scoring.

Off the bench, Doug Anderson averages 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. With McCallum leading the way, Detroit has the all the necessary tools to become just the fifth No. 15 seed to knockoff a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Not wanting another early round exit, Taylor and the Jayhawks know what's at stake on Friday night. A victory against Detroit will move Kansas one step closer to winning the first of three two-game tournaments.

Yes, Ray McCallum, Jr., is a fabulous player, but it won't be the first time this season that Self's squad is faced with a difficult challenge. Already, the Jayhawks have gone head-to-head against Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb, Anthony Davis, Hollis Thompson, Jason Clark, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Austin Rivers, Ryan Kelly, William Buford, Deshaun Thomas, Royce White, Perry Jones III, Pierre Jackson, Brady Heslip, Marcus Denmon, Michael Dixon Jr. and others.

Clearly, Kansas has been tested this season, and will be fully prepared for whatever Detroit throws its way on Friday night.

"He is their main focus right now since he is the guy everybody knows about," Taylor said. "I'm sure they have guys that can do some things if Ray doesn't play as well. I'm sure he hasn't played terrific in every game that they have won this season.

"They are well coached, and they will be ready and excited to play," he added.

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