WILSON: Playing Ball State brings back memories for McCallum

Doug caught up with Indiana assistant coach ray McCallum and talked to him about his days at Ball State. Good read.

———————–

by Doug Wilson
H-T columnist | dwilson@heraldt.com
December 31, 2006

BLOOMINGTON — Ray McCallum couldn’t look at Saturday’s game as being like any other.

Spending hours watching film as part of the preparation for Saturday’s game, the Hoosier assistant coach kept noticing the Cardinal logo at midcourt and the familiar backdrop of Ball State’s Worthen Arena.

McCallum may be a Hoosier assistant coach now, but his roots will always be in Muncie, the town where he led Muncie Central to two state championships before becoming the key player in turning Ball State into a winning basketball program.

And Muncie is where McCallum was head coach from 1994-2000, leading Ball State to a winning record each season.

“You take a special pride whenever you have the kind of experiences we had at Ball State,” McCallum said after Indiana defeated the Cardinals 71-57 Saturday night.

McCallum, 44, said he talked with first-year Ball State coach Ronny Thompson before the season to share his thoughts on what the Cardinal basketball program needs to regain the form that saw it have 14 straight winning seasons in the years leading up to 2002-03 before it slipped to having three losing seasons in the last four years.

The leading scorer in Ball State history until one of his own players — Bonzi Wells — broke his record, McCallum liked what he saw in Ball State Saturday. He said the Cardinals are developing a personality similar to what their coach’s dad, John Thompson, was famous for at Georgetown, an intimidating full-court press and strong rebounding.

Ball State, with a 38-35 edge on the boards, was just the second team to outrebound Indiana this year.

“They are going to be a great rebounding team in the Mid-American Conference,” McCallum said.

During high school, McCallum hoped to play at Indiana. He had attended Bob Knight’s basketball camp as a teenager and grew up watching some of Knight’s greatest teams.

But Indiana didn’t recruit the 5-foot-10 in-state star, having already signed Isiah Thomas out of Chicago for the same recruiting class.

At the time, legendary Muncie Central coach Bill Harrell told McCallum he could reverse Ball State’s losing tradition in basketball.

“He said, ‘You go there and turn it around and people will always remember you,’ ” McCallum said. “And you know, I think that was true.”

McCallum, a three-time first-team all-conference player and the MAC MVP his senior year in 1983, led Ball State to its first two MAC championships and to its first NCAA Tournament appearance.

He ultimately became the first Ball State athlete in any sport to have his number, 10, retired.

That history, along with his seven years as a recruiter while coaching at Ball State, makes McCallum a familiar face and name in virtually every high school gym he visits while recruiting for Indiana.

McCallum is involved in all aspects of coaching Indiana’s team, he said, but two of his most important responsibilities are in-state recruiting and scouting opponents.

The Muncie native has always had ties to Bloomington because of friends and family that attended IU. After coaching at Houston and Oklahoma the past six years, his local ties have grown stronger this year, he said, as he’s finally become part of the Hoosier program and become part of the community with a son and a daughter attending Bloomington North.

“The community has really supported us,” he said with a smile. “Being back here, it’s like I never left.”