On the last day of the last tournament of a long AAU open session, California associate head men's basketball coach, Tim O'Toole, sat by and watched as one team -- Greenwood Elite -- just kept winning, in Indianapolis. He watched three straight games, and one player, in particular, caught his eye. 6-foot-5, 185-pound shooting guard Austin McCullough, the Alabama native who became the all-time leading scorer for Portage (Mich.) Portage Central over the last four years -- shot his way into O'Toole's heart, and into his report back to head coach Wyking Jones.
"He saw me in the morning of the last day of the tournament," McCullough said. "Our team kept winning and he watched all three of our games to the championship that day. He got some film from my [high school] coach and the staff thought I could really contribute over the next four years."
"He liked my toughness and the way I shot the ball," McCullough said.
That was three weeks ago. Yesterday, McCullough and his father made a visit to Berkeley, where the Cal staff offered McCullough a scholarship.
"He works in San Jose so he came up and hung out for the day," McCullough said. "It was towards the end and I had already toured the campus, hung out with the staff and Deschon [Winston], and I knew it was the right place for me."
During the trip, McCullough got to bond with his future point guard, another late signee in Deschon Winston.
"I did get to shoot around with Deschon for awhile. He's really excited about next year and the guys that we have coming in now," said McCullough, who also got to sit down and chat for an extended period of time with the staff. "We talked a lot about style of play. We watched a lot of their film from last year and then some of mine and then compared the two to show how I could really be successful in what they're trying to do."
It also helps that McCullough's father, who moved the family from Alabama up to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to stay with his medical device manufacturing company, Stryker, is now working 5 days every 3 weeks in San Jose. Health sciences, as it would happen, are something McCullough is interested in pursuing.
"He's thrilled," McCullough said. "He's been a huge part of my growth in basketball and I'm happy that he'll be able to watch every game."
Jay McCullough played basketball in high school, but wound up playing both football and baseball for Southeast Missouri State.
His son, who has a 3.97 GPA, can help Cal right away, especially as the Bears lost all of their pure shooters in Jabari Bird (graduation), Charlie Moore (transferred to Kansas) and Grant Mullins (graduated) after last season. A knockdown shooter who can get hot quickly, McCullough shot 52% from the field his senior year, and 45% from beyond the arc.
The leading scorer in the history of Portage Central, McCullough is the only player in school history to surpass the 1,000-point mark, spending four years on varsity after he and his family moved up from Alabama. He will sign his scholarship papers on Monday. For someone who, until yesterday, had offers only from Niagara, Fairleigh Dickinson, Virginia Military Institute, and UMass-Lowell, it's a bit of a trip.
"It's crazy," McCullough said. "I'm gonna be on that team playing on ESPN now, and I can't wait for it."