Titans ‘flying high’

Friday, March 16, 2012

— Detroit Mercy point guard Ray McCallum Jr., the coach’s son, brings the leadership qualities and basketball instincts stereotypical of a coach’s son.

He also brings so much leaping ability he placed second in the 2010 McDonald’s All-American dunking competition. The winner? Josh Selby. The name rings a vague, almost silent, bell, but I can’t quite place him.

Anyway, McCallum ranks second on his current team as a dunker, but it’s a far more distant second.

“I’ve never seen anyone with Doug Anderson’s athletic ability,” McCallum said of Anderson, the 6-foot-6 Titans forward. “What you guys have seen in games, I mean, it’s nothing compared to what we’ve seen in practice.”

Advised 6-10, 270-pound Indiana transfer Eli Holman: “Watch our practice. He might put on a show for you.”

Good idea.

“Hey 23,” a young fan standing in the front row hollered toward the layup line. “Go between your legs.”

Anderson never looked into the stands, but he did go between his legs and throw one down. If that ranked an 8.5, the 10 came at the end of practice. Anderson got up so high and came down with such force on a windmill that a screw popped out of the basket. Holman picked up the screw and explained that the power of his earlier dunk loosened it. (It reminded me of what I told my sister when she opened a jar I couldn’t: “Yeah, but I loosened it up for you.”)

Dunk competitions lead to credit-grabs, but individual competitions don’t change basketball teams. Holman articulated a far more meaningful factor in finishing the season with 10 victories in 11 games.

“We bought into the defensive system,” Holman said. “Our team was usually a little more offensive, but we bought into a defensive mind-set.”

Holman rattled off the defensive contributions of a handful of teammates, including 6-10 center LaMarcus Lowe, who averages 2.2 blocked shots a game to go with Holman’s 1.4 blocks.

“He’s so long he can block shots standing on his tip-toes,” Holman said of Lowe. “When you have the kind of players we have and they all buy into the same program and are not playing to their individual talents, you can play with any team in the country. But you have to stay humble. Once you get out of that humble mind-set and into arrogance, you’re going to fall apart as a team.”

Humble and confident, the perfect blend for team sports.

“It took our confidence straight through the roof,” Lowe said of the late-season surge. “It’s just like hitting 10 of your first 11 shots in a game. The rim looks like an ocean to you. You feel like you can shoot anything. You feel like you can take half-court shots and make them. We got hot at the right time. We’re coming in here flying high.”

Said Holman: “We’re trying to shock the world.”