UCLA basketball hires AAU coach Korey McCray of Atlanta Celtics

Will UCLA sign at least one elite Atlanta basketball player in 2012?

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UCLA made it official on Tuesday night, announcing the hiring of AAU coach Korey McCray as an assistant basketball coach.

McCray, 32, had been CEO of the Atlanta Celtics, one of the top AAU basketball or summer travel teams in the nation. Dwight Howard, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudamire, and Josh Smith are a few of the Celtics alumi playing in the NBA.

It was a shrewd hiring by UCLA, and instantly gives the Bruins a strong recruiting presence in Georgia, which may have its deepest crop of college basketball prospects in state history for 2012.

Three Georgia players are ranked among the top 20 nationally — Southwest DeKalb forward Shaq Goodwin, Miller Grove forward Tony Parker, and Thomasville forward Robert Carter — and at least 23 across the state have early high D1 scholarship offers. (Around 11 signed high D1 this past season)

“I’m definitely going to recruit the state of Georgia,” McCray told the AJC on Tuesday night over the telephone from Los Angeles.

“But certain schools get players from anywhere. Certain schools don’t have to stick to a region. UCLA is one of those schools. With a school like UCLA, I feel like you can get talent from anywhere. But I’m definitely going to recruit Georgia schools.”

The hiring of Korey McCray gives UCLA a big-time recruiter in the Atlanta area (Photo by UCLA)

The hiring of Korey McCray gives UCLA a big-time recruiter in the Atlanta area (Photo by UCLA)

Does McCray feel like he will have an advantage recruiting Georgia for UCLA? “I wouldn’t say that. But I’d say I know the area well and I know the coaches. I wouldn’t say I have an advantage because Georgia Tech and Georgia have some great, great head coaches and great assistants that recruit the Atlanta area. They are going to have an advantage because they are going to be near there. I will be in California. They’ll have the advantage but I do have some good relationships.”

UCLA coach Ben Howland told the LA Times recently that he would not hire an AAU coach to create a pipeline of talent, but it’s hard to imagine McCray’s extensive connections in Georgia and in AAU circles not benefiting the Bruins.

It may be already happening:

  • Shaq Goodwin, who has played with the Atlanta Celtics, has listed UCLA in his top 5, along with Georgia Tech and Georgia. The 6-foot-8, 235-pounder said he plans to make an unofficial visit to UCLA this summer.
  • Jordan Adams, a 6-6 guard transferred from Central Gwinnett High School to Oak Hill (Va.) prep school, was scheduled to make an unofficial visit to UCLA this month. He plays with the Atlanta Celtics.
  • Jordan Price, a 6-4 shooting guard from Southwest DeKalb who was named MVP of the UA Best of Best Camp, lists Auburn as his favorite over Memphis and Ole Miss among his current offers. Price is also getting serious interest from UCLA, Georgia Tech and Georgia, according to UGASports writer Dan McDonald.

Colleges hiring coaches with an AAU background is a newer but not unusual trend. Memphis coach Josh Pastner was the head coach of his father’s AAU teams in Houston that featured future NBA talents such Emeka Okafor and TJ Ford. There are also several Div. I-A assistants hired directly from the AAU ranks.

One Shaq's career ended last week while another one's is just beginning (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)

One Shaq's career ended last week while another one's is just beginning (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)

McCray has basketball credentials other than AAU. McCray was a member of Cedar Grove High School’s 1997 state championship team with former Georgia Tech player and Atlanta Hawks first-round pick Dion Glover.

McCray played point guard at Mercer and then served as a graduate assistant at Florida State from 2002-04. He was an assistant at Florida’s Chipola Junior College from 2004-2005, and returned to Mercer as an assistant from 2007-2008. Since 2004, McCray has trained players on the side, including Dwight Howard and John Wall before they became No. 1 overall NBA picks.

However, McCray knows he is stuck with the college-team-hires-AAU-coach label and he’s fine with it. “I’m getting a lot of attention for it, but I’m not the first. Hopefully I do a good job so other guys will get opportunities. I’ve coached at the Div. I level before, and I look forward to learning under Coach Howland and the other guys on the staff. I’m grateful to get this opportunity.”

– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog Got a recruiting item? mcarvell@ajc.com



Note: Inappropriate BLOG comments and personal attacks will NOT be tolerated. We love the lively discussions but hate-filled, harassing and irresponsible comments are unacceptable.

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33 comments Add your comment

Dawg Nites

June 8th, 2011
3:27 am

smart call 4 ucla. never understood why georgia, georgia tech and for that matter georgia state never hired someone from a metro high school or aau team????? you know, someone in the trenches. I know they all got some college guy who recruited in georgia before but it’s not the same as having someone who really knows the recruits and coaches for this super 2012 class. im betting korey was worth the hire and nets 2 for ucla.


June 8th, 2011
8:17 am

I’m surprised Jordan Price isn’t getting more attention. I’ve seen him play since pee wee league and always thought he was fundamentally sound. Combined with Goodwin next year, I believe they will end Miller Groves basketball title run and lead SWD to its first state championship.


June 8th, 2011
9:56 am

I looked at ESPN and Rivals and Jordan Price has about 12 – 13 schools listed, and by the way he is having a good spring, can not wait to see what July is going to look like.


June 8th, 2011
11:18 am

Congratulations Korey! Make us proud!

Here we go

June 8th, 2011
11:41 am

Snide comments about how AAU will now start a ‘pipeline’ out to LA and boycott sending players to GT, coming from ‘Hewitt Fan’ in Five … Four … Three …


June 8th, 2011
11:53 am

How is UCLA going to get around the NCAA rule which states that colleges can’t recruit from an amateur program (AAU or HS) if the college hires someone affiliated with that program?

That’s the real story and one that should be addressed in a RECRUITING blog.

Look at the Mo Hicks and St. Johns situation to see the issues. Moe Hicks was hired by St.Johns and now several recruits and transfers are in jeopardy.

How will UCLA recruit ANY of the Celtics players?


June 8th, 2011
12:16 pm

@ADogLoverUGAmuttHater —REALLY? Where does such hatred come from for these CHILDREN?


June 8th, 2011
12:26 pm

@RC,I mean really,@ADogLoverUGAmuttHater – I know some of these young men, and they are good guys, and great players and I am glad your comment was removed!


June 8th, 2011
12:30 pm

Congrats Korey all the best

Michael Carvell

June 8th, 2011
12:35 pm

@how, excellent question. However, the NCAA rule has to do with NON-coaching positions. Moe Hicks was hired as St. John’s Director of Basketball Operations. Here’s more from ZagsBlog:

“At issue is NCAA Bylaw 11.4.2, which says St. John’s can’t recruit anyone coached by Hicks for a two-year period after the hiring, or until June 1, 2012.

The Bylaw reads: “In men’s basketball, during a two-year period before a prospective student-athlete’s anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the prospective student-athlete’s actual enrollment, an institution shall not employ (or enter into a contract for future employment with) an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department noncoaching staff position.”

It goes on to say: ”If an institution hires an IAWP [individual associated with a prospect] for a noncoaching staff position within two years on either side of enrollment, involved S/A will be permanently ineligible for competition at offending institution.

The odd thing about the rule is that if Hicks had been hired as an assistant coach on the floor, St. John’s would not be restricted in terms of recruiting his former players.”


June 8th, 2011
12:56 pm

Michael Carvell
Thanks for that clarification. It didn’t make since that a Coach couldn’t recruit kids he knows. How would kids be allowed to transfer to follow a coach that gets a new coaching job in college if that were the case.


June 8th, 2011
1:04 pm

They maybe great kids and players but many if not most just want to go to college for as short a period of time to then jump to the NBA. They don’t care about the College just the opportunity to hopefully get to the NBA. The term is STUDENT athlete for a REASON and many of the AAU players never get the STUDENT part down.

Hewitt Fan

June 8th, 2011
1:10 pm

UCLA will win a National title in 3 years!..Gt will be looking for another coach in 3 years!


June 8th, 2011
1:16 pm

Hewitt Fan
I knew you couldn’t stay away.
The QUESTION to you is HOW many of the Atl Celtics will Hewitt get now at his new school and how long until Hewitt is a winner and makes it to the NCAA’s Big Dance? You are such a Hewitt fan tell us about that stuff.


June 8th, 2011
1:41 pm

Come on people! Look at this for what it really is. No disrespect to Mr. McCray but if things are that good with him then why weren’t any other schools after him on the level of UCLA? This has all the makings of let’s cheat until we get caught. UCLA wants to be back in the elite so bad just like Kentucky (hiring Mr. John “Cheat” Calipari, UMASS & Memphis) and they are trying a method that has been disastrous in the past with AAU affiliation with D1 schools. This should be a BIG RED FLAG for the NCAA to look at. This always starts good but these parents really need to pay attention to this potential “Pimp My Child Out” situation. One way to curtail this is to make a rule that an AAU coach hired on the D1 level cannot recruit a player that has any affiliation with the AAU program he was with for at least three years after he or she is hired. Also, the school should not be allowed to recruit from this same AAU squad for at least three years if they hire this person. The reward for cheating won’t be as grand under those circumstances. Win at all cost and the majority of the people that get hurt are the innocent players involved (see Reggie Bush and Terrelle Pryor). Their teammates are probably feeling betrayed and hurt by their selfish actions.


June 8th, 2011
1:53 pm

There is nothing innocent about Reggie Bush nor about Terrelle Pryor. Find another subject to cry about.


June 8th, 2011
2:43 pm

Coach Wooden is turning over in his grave.


June 8th, 2011
2:52 pm

ACC of the Pac 10?


June 8th, 2011
4:26 pm

JD your a FOOL!

Last time I checked Calipari has never had any infractions or sanctions brought down on HIM by the NCAA. Unlike Rick Pitino, Jim Calhoun, Bruce Pearl, Steve Fisher, Jim Harrick, Bill Self, Roy Williams etc… Two schools he coached at have been in trouble but not on Calipari himself. Everybody thinks he is a cheating scumbag. If so why do so many of the top players want to come play for him?

Do some research and look at all the charity work he does. Just last year he donated a MILLION dollars to a charity in Memphis. He help raise and donated a lot of money this year for Dick Vitales annual Gala which benefits pediatric cancer. He and UK’s team had a telethon last year to help raise a little over a MILLION dollars for Haiti. But yeah he is just a “cheater”.

You want to talk about a “cheat” look at Wooden. I guess haters are going to hate. Go Big Blue

Ryan Jacobsen

June 8th, 2011
6:30 pm

Thoroughbred your an idiot!

You open up your attack on JD by saying “Calipari has never had any infractions or sanctions brought down on HIM by the NCAA” then say “you want to talk about a “cheat” look at Wooden.

Last time I checked, Wooden was never sanctioned by the NCAA. When you want to make a crappy argument, apply some of your own logic next time. Oh wait, you did … “haters are going to hate!”


June 8th, 2011
9:15 pm

Ryan jacobsen

You must not have any knowledge of who Sam Gilbert is then smart guy.

A lot of former ucla players have said they were paid by Sam Gilbert back in the day. Even Bill Walton said if the NCAA knew what was going on at the time ucla would have to probably vacate about 8 national titles. You must not know to much about the history of college basketball. Most people know wooden was not the saint he is played out to be.

UGA from NYU

June 8th, 2011
9:23 pm

Wow, I am really surprised by the amount of basketball players that come out of Georgia year after year! With this talent, I’m even more surprised that GT hasn’t won more championships! I think programs like UGA and Ga State are sleeping giants that are just waiting for the right coach to wake them up!

Honestly, UGA is not far off with their regime and Ga State might have found a new solution…. However, GT should always dominate the state on the hardwood!

Scot Waldrop

June 8th, 2011
10:22 pm

Korey is more than just an AAU coach. He was a 4 year letterman at Mercer, captain for 2 years. He was a graduate assistant for 2 years at FSU, and assistant coach for 2 years at Chipola JC & 1 yr at Mercer.

He currently trains multiple players in the NBA, many who are not affiliated with the Atlanta Celtics organization.

I am quite certain that UCLA hired Korey based on his ability to coach, and I doubt many high profile players are going to UCLA as a result.

[...] Korey McCray, the CEO of the Atlanta Celtics AAU team, was announced as an assistant coach at UCLA on Tuesday. (Go here for the full story) [...]

Yea Boi

June 9th, 2011
5:27 pm

Whom ever Tony Watkins is he needs to be online looking for a F’n job. Four blogs on this one topic, you aren’t hiding your jealousy very well. Korey obviously has the credentials for this hire. If he was hired at UGA, GT or GaState this would be praised. Oh yeah UGA & GT did have a chance to hire him, but passed on him. So they blew that golden opportunity to enhance their programs. Both of these schools want Shaq Goodwin & Jordan Adams really bad. They would have been a lock for the school with the gutts to hire McCray. Hhhmm, Memphis wanted to hire Korey McCray also but were a little late. So this dude had options. I am sure there are a lot of current college asst coaches around the country would like to be coaching in WESTWOOD as well.

[...] Even smarter? McCray’s ties are to Atlanta, giving the Bruins a direct line to East Coast talent. [...]

Fastbreak Friday «

June 10th, 2011
9:14 am

[...] He’s going to recruit Atlanta. That’s a given. I have no doubt he’ll do a great job. Hello, Shaq Goodwin. [...]

[...] made an interesting and potentially impactful assistant coach hire. The Bruins hired Atlanta Celtics head man Korey McCray. Establishing a pipeline to the deep Georgia high school boys basketball ranks could really benefit [...]

[...] this month, UCLA hired Korey McCray, CEO of the Atlanta Celtics AAU basketball team, as an assistant coach. (click on story [...]

[...] Adams said earlier this month that the Bruins didn’t have an edge – despite Coach Ben Howland‘s recent hiring of his AAU coach, Korey McCray, as an assistant – in the end the opportunity was too enticing to pass [...]

[...] power: UCLA, the school of Wooden and Abdul-Jabbar and Walton and 11 NCAA titles, hired Korey McCray away from the Atlanta Celtics to become an assistant coach. Why? Because UCLA believes McCray can be an effective [...]

basketball teammates

August 11th, 2011
1:05 am

Good job, Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

[...] visit to Georgia Tech and/or UGA. His next scheduled recruiting trip will be in a couple of weeks to UCLA, which hired his longtime AAU coach from the Atlanta Celtics, Korey McCray, as an assistant in…. Parker’s close friend and teammate on the Atlantic Celtics, shooting guard Jordan Adams, has [...]