By: Tom Ballato
Mike McCall Jr. is from Chicago, a place where the basketball grind is different than most.
Chicago has a history of generating talent on the hardwood. Basketball played in high school gyms around Chicago matches, or evens tops basketball played anywhere in the country.
McCall started playing basketball at a young age. “I started playing the game of basketball at the age of six. My pops used to take me to parks/YMCA and pushed me and worked on my game everyday. I didn’t play in any league or was trained by trainers. I just used to go to parks and get up hundreds of shots and do lots of cone drills.”
McCall was an All-State selection, and a high school senior averaged 18.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.6 assists out of Foreman High School in Chicago. He had plenty of interest from colleges. “I had a lot of schools that were interested and offered. University of California, Washington State, DePaul, Illinois State, Gonzaga, and Butler, to name a few.” The recruiting process was overwhelming, so he needed to narrow down his list.
He committed to St. Louis University (SLU) to play for Rick Majerus. When asked why he chose St. Louis, McCall Jr. replied, “I felt like St. Louis was the perfect fit for me, close to home, one of the top schools academically, it’s in a great conference (A10) and hall of fame coach in Rick Majerus. It was the best situation to go out and play. SLU also ran an offense that fit my style of play, what I thought was very important at the time. All of those were key for me, especially my family coming down to watch me play as well.”
As a freshman, McCall led St.Louis in scoring with 10.4 points per game, a feat that hadn’t been done since Larry Hughes in 1998. His sophomore season, he played a role off the bench and had to get better defensively. St. Louis made a run into the second round of the NCAA Tournament that season.
Sadly in the middle of his collegiate career, Rick Majerus passed away due to heart failure. “When coach Majerus passed away, it took a lot out of me. When he was here, he taught me so much as a player. He was so much into the detail of the game; the little things make the game easier for you.” Everything that coach Majerus taught started making sense for McCall as he matured and got older.
Majerus always told him to have a purpose and go hard in drills and practice. He also instilled in him to play every game like it’s your last. McCall always played like it was his last. He was part of a 14 point comeback in the NCAA Tournament against NC State in 2014. Even though they were down, they kept fighting.
St. Louis won back to back Atlantic 10 Conference Championships during his tenure in 2013 and 2014, something that McCall is proud of. He left St. Louis, he was 5th all-time in steals, 7th all-time in three-pointers made and 19th in scoring.
He started his professional career in 2014 in the NBA D-League with the Iowa Energy. The Iowa Energy selected him in the third round of the NBA Developmental League Draft. During his first professional season, he appeared in 29 games and averaged 2.9 points and 1.2 assists per game in limited minutes.
After a year in the D-League, McCall played in Ecuador, where he averaged 32 points per game. He returned home to Chicago and played two seasons with the Chicago Steam in the ABA (American Basketball Association).
In 2018 the Manchester Giants of the BBL (British Basketball League) signed McCall to come in and start at point guard position.
While with the Giants, McCall was a very reliable player with an elite midrange game. His highlights with Manchester include a 50 point game with 7 assists on 8 of 9 three-pointers. He was also named the team’s MVP for the 2018-2019 season and averaged 15.7 points and 5.3 assists per game.
The countries that McCall has played in his relatively young professional career include Ecuador, Cyprus, England, China, and Hungry. When asked about the country he’s enjoyed playing in the most, McCall responded, “So far, I would have to say England. I played for the Manchester Giants, so I lived in Manchester, which is a beautiful city. The people were nice, most of the people spoke English, and the league I played in (BBL) was solid as well.”
McCall spent this past season in Hungary playing for Veszpremi and was a top five scorer in the league. According to McCall, the season was going well, and the team was getting back on track before the coronavirus ended the season.
With the uncertainty of when basketball will resume, McCall is working out and preparing himself for next season. He looks forward to making a return to his second home, St.Louis, very soon.