ESPNChicago.com's Athlete of Week
St. Louis-bound guard Mike McCall has found his swagger in his senior season
CHICAGO -- Foreman coach Terry Head will never forget the look on Mike McCall's face when he began yelling at him after pulling him out of the game during his sophomore year.
"I just ripped into him real hard," Head said. "He was looking at me, 'Coach, why you yelling at me like that?' I told him, 'I need you to score, be aggressive. How many games you going to let us lose? How many games you going to make it hard by not being aggressive?'"
There was no answer. McCall just stared back.
Two years later, McCall is making up for that. While he's yet to verbally respond to his coach's questions, his game has done his talking for him. After three varsity seasons of being a respectable ballplayer, McCall has emerged as one of the most dominating players in the state.
Jereme Richmond and Wayne Blackshear may be the center of most conversations about player-of-the-year honors, but McCall isn't too far off. For now, he is the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week.
"He should be in the mix with Richmond and Blackshear," Head said. "He's carrying Foreman to new heights this year."
Foreman's success goes beyond McCall as he's just one of four Division I recruits on this year's team, but McCall has been steering the ship. He's what coaches dream of when they imagine the perfect combo guard. He scores when he's needed to score, and he passes when he's needed to pass. Plus, he always defending. As a result, his stat line usually reads something like 20 points, five assists, five rebounds and two steals.
"Any key play, coach tells me to come get the ball and make something happen, and that's what I do," the 6-foot McCall said. "My confidence is way better than last year. I'm starting to believe in my game a little more. It's about maturity on the court. I'm knowing the game better. I know when to shoot and when not to shoot. That comes with experience and having been on varsity since freshman year."
McCall has stepped up this season whenever Foreman has needed him the most. Just this past week with the Hornets facing two tough Public League Red-North games, McCall put his team on his back both times and led it to wins over Lincoln Park and Von Steuben to clinch the conference title.
Against Lincoln Park, he had 26 points, five assists, four rebounds and six steals. He also scored seven consecutive points during the third quarter to put Foreman up for good and threw down a tomahawk dunk in the first quarter that forced the officials to delay the game as fans had to be ushered off the court.
"That was like, 'Oh, my God, this dude is really coming out,'" Head said. "That was one of the nastiest dunks I've seen."
Two days later, he scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Hornets to a narrow win over rival Von Steuben.
City/Suburban Hoops Report basketball analyst Joe Henricksen has noticed a different mentality in McCall this season.
"I think the biggest thing that has set him apart is how he has approached this season," Henricksen said. "When you talk with him, you realize how much this season means to him. He looks at it as being Foreman's time and that assertiveness shows. He doesn't want to take anything for granted. He knows he's a senior, realizes this team and program have been building towards this year, and he's going to do everything in his power to accomplish the goals this team has set.
"He's not caught up in individual accolades, where he's ranked or how much he's scoring. With that being said, I do think he should be in the player-of-the-year conversation. He has been huge and been big in key moments of high-profile games."
Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus will certainly be glad to have McCall on his side next season. While Head pleaded with local programs like DePaul and Northwestern to give McCall a look, Illinois State, Indiana State and Saint Louis recruited him, with Majerus ultimately winning out.
"I think that he's the biggest steal in the state," Head said. "I think he was a late bloomer. I don't think a coach would take a chance on him.
"I think his confidence is getting more and more as the season has gone on. He's going to be unstoppable. I can say what the kids say, 'He's got his swag on now.'"
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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