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.”
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:
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.
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? firstname.lastname@example.org
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