Bloomington, Ind. – Kelvin Sampson may have made his best move to recruit the state of Indiana three years before he even knew he would be the head coach at Indiana University.
The move was hiring one-time University of Houston head coach Ray McCallum to join him on his bench at Oklahoma. McCallum, an Indiana native and former head coach at Ball State in Muncie, Ind., may turn out to be Sampson's secret weapon in recruiting the Hoosier state.
"It's something about six weeks ago I probably didn't think about," said McCallum. "When Coach brought me in from Houston, he told me to be with him for two or three years, let's go win a national title and a Big 12 title, then go be a head coach again.
"That was my plan to stay there at Oklahoma until I could be a head coach. But the opportunity to come with him and be in Indiana, it's a great opportunity for me. I'm really excited about it."
McCallum played high school basketball in Muncie, where he was a part of two state championship teams at Muncie Central. As a player at Ball State, McCallum graduated as the Mid America Conference's all-time scoring leader and became the first BSU athlete to have his jersey retired in any sport.
"I grew up in Indiana," said McCallum "I followed Indiana high school basketball and being in the southwest part of the country I really enjoyed telling stories about Indiana basketball and the passion that Hoosiers have. For me, playing in Muncie, knowing the expectations as a high school player and coaching the state, I've got a good feel for what we're walking into.
"I can remember my first game at Houston when I asked, ‘should we expect eight or nine thousand fans?' They told me to expect more like 3,000. (At Muncie Central) we were one of the top ten teams in the state, were coming off back-to-back state championships and the Muncie Field House sold out every game. That was five or six thousand people for Indiana high school basketball."
Knowing the pressures and elations that go along with Indiana basketball is an asset that Indiana's former coaching staff did not possess. With McCallum's experience and connections in the state, Sampson and his staff have an edge the Hoosiers have been missing for quite some time and hope to return the program to the top of in-state players' minds.
"We're Indiana University," said McCallum. "I could say 30 years ago when I was a camper here it starts in state. Everyone knows the number of players that have come from the state of Indiana. We know a lot of people and we're making contact with those coaches. We're very pleased to say they're excited about us reaching out to them."
McCallum's connections are already ringing close to home. In his first week in Bloomington he found he already had close contacts with more coaches than he ever thought - including one coach in town.
"About the fourth day on the job, a young man came into my office," said McCallum. "It happened to be (Bloomington High School North head coach) Andy Hodson and he was one of my former senior managers at Ball State. We started to talk and we went down the line with about five managers that worked with him that are head coaches in the state of Indiana now.
"That's really exciting to see and hear that and former players that are head coaches. Guys I played with are head coaches. We seem to have that all over the state. We can pretty much go to any town and I'll probably know somebody there through the history of Indiana basketball."
If McCallum can succeed at his goals, current Indiana players will have the same thought process about Indiana as he did while growing up in the state.
"In 1979 we were coming off a state championship at Muncie Central and Isiah Thomas had signed with Indiana in the fall – to let you know what I thought about this place, I still would have come to Indiana if they recruited me," said McCallum. "I probably would have had to sit a couple of years, but I still would have come. It worked at Ball State and I wouldn't change that, but that tells you how I felt about Indiana at the time."
McCallum Glad To Be Back Home
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