Ray McCallum using summer league to prepare for increased role with Sacramento Kings

Ray McCallum looks on as the Kings take on the Hornets at Summer League. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

LAS VEGAS – Ray McCallum feels it. With the departure of Isaiah Thomas to the Phoenix Suns, the 23-year-old guard out of Detroit-Mercy knows that this upcoming season could be his next big break.

Fortunately for McCallum, he has experience under his belt. The second-year point guard started 10 contests late last season and gained a better understanding of the game during that run.

“(I feel) a lot more confident, comfortable,” McCallum said of this year’s summer league experience. “Just understanding what’s going on. Last year, Ben (McLemore) and I were kind of thrown into the fire, not knowing our whole team is full of rookies. But having this year of experience, it’s helped a lot. It’s made this transition to summer league a lot easier than last.”

Considering he and veteran Darren Collison are the only two point guards the Kings have, McCallum has an opportunity to secure major minutes in their backcourt. McCallum says he’s putting in the work to prepare for the upcoming season. His main goals are to continue to show that he can effectively run a team and play aggressively on both sides of the ball.

“Whether it’s making a play for a teammate, making a play for myself and just doing something on the offensive end at all times that will help our team, (just be aggressive),” McCallum said.

McCallum has been able to do those things and more in Las Vegas. Through four games, the 23-year-old guard is one of the top passers in the summer league, averaging 11.3 assists per contest.

McCallum is scoring less than 10 points per game, but there’s good reason. With talented scoring options like Nik Stauskas, MarShon Brooks and McLemore on the floor, putting points on the board hasn’t needed to be a main priority for McCallum.

“All the guys I’m out on the court with this year know how to play and that’s big when you’re out on the court with guys who know how to play and who have played before,” McCallum said. “So it makes it that much easier for me being a point guard – just getting guys their spots and being able to run the team. My teammates and my coaching staff this year have made it a lot more easier for me.”

The adjustment to the summer league pace isn’t nearly as challenging for McCallum as it was last year. Six players, including McCallum, have NBA experience on the Kings’ Vegas league roster compared to last year when the team had none. The experience on this year’s roster has made it easier for McCallum to learn how to play in a system led by new assistant Tyrone Corbin.

The former Jazz head coach likes what he’s seen out of McCallum. Corbin thinks McCallum has gotten more comfortable as each game has gone by.

“The 12 assists he had (against the D-League Select Team) were huge for us and largely because he went with a great pace,” Corbin said. “He understood what we had to get in different sets and how he has to share the ball and generate the pace that we want.”

McCallum’s play at point this summer is one of the main reasons why the Kings are in the hunt for their first Vegas league crown. The 23-year-old McCallum maintains, however, that that’s just a result of he and teammates doing their jobs.

“Just coming out here, trying to run my team and have some success,” McCallum said. “Our goal this year is to come out here and try to win the whole thing and just get better each and every game and I think that’s something we’ve done.”

Edited at 5:02 pm: Ray McCallum has averaged 11.3 assists per game so far, not 5.3. 

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.