• February 26, 2020

GOOD NEWS: Permian alum recalls time in Odessa, shares NBA experience - Odessa American: Good News

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GOOD NEWS: Permian alum recalls time in Odessa, shares NBA experience

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Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2020 7:00 am

Richard McCalop doesn’t get back to Odessa much these days, but the gymnasium at 1037 E Murphy St. is etched in his memory.

“That Boys and Girls Club is where I grew up,” McCalop, 26, said. “I wouldn’t change that for the world.”

Like many basketball firsts for McCalop, his first dunk off of two-feet was in that gym. It was the summer after his junior year at Permian; the summer before his knee locked and then broke in a three-man weave drill - costing him his senior season.

“My whole history of basketball starts there,” McCalop remembered. “That was one of the only places I could play.”

For McCalop, his time at the Woodson Boys and Girls Club extends far beyond a hardwood floor and a ten-foot rim.

“It wasn’t only basketball, it was more of a life experience,” McCalop said. “I learned how to make better life decisions there.”

Now in his fourth year of navigating the volatile world of professional basketball, McCalop still leans on those life-lessons.

“I think about that now,” McCalop said. “I try to listen to everybody: people that are older than me -that have been there. I ask more questions; I sit back and I listen.”

Last season, McCalop was the most valuable player in the Mongolian Super League. After leading the Sukhbaatar Alians Tekh to game seven of the semi-finals, McCalop played his way onto a billboard overlooking one of the few basketball arenas in Ulaanbaatar.

Even after putting together a stellar season, McCalop has found it difficult to land a spot on a roster in the early goings of the current season.

“I’ve been offered contracts, but it’s the money at the moment,” McCalop lamented. “In Mongolia, there were players making much more money because they had played in the NBA before, or at a high DI. Coming out of an NAIA school I have the game not the resume.”

“It’s hard for everybody right now, because the market is super-saturated,” added Jason Siggers, a long-time pro in Israel, who knows McCalop through various open-runs in the Dallas area. “There is lowballing all over the place; you have to decide if you want to take pennies or not.”

Since graduating from Permian in 2011, McCalop, 6’7” has been a basketball vagabond: three colleges; stints in Romania, Mongolia, and the American minor league; two years with the Harlem Globetrotters under the moniker ‘Magic’ – as in his jumping and dunking abilities are magic.

“I bounced around so much for a few reasons,” McCalop remembered. “The broken knee – it’s a business, once you get hurt they go to the next person in line. I started at a JUCO, but I never really got familiar with how to be a student: ‘you got to take this [class] to do this’ – I didn’t really know.”

“After JUCO, the coaches didn’t really push me about the credits, I felt like I was just being used for basketball,” McCalop continued. “I’d have changed a lot, from the way I trained to the way I ate.”

Adding to the difficulties McCalop experienced in college, was the loss of his father, Richard McCalop Senior, to cancer his junior year.

“We did literally everything together,” McCalop said, the day after his fathers’ birthday. “You don’t realize it until you step on the court for the first time and don’t get a text from your dad – it impacts me to this day.”

Still, McCalop draws inspiration from his father.

“My mom and dad coached me – they are the reason I’m as good as I am now. It runs in the family,” McCalop said. “I think about him and where he wants me to be; it pushes me harder. If you get two people on the court and one of them lost something - that player is going to play with more heart.”

His dream – and the dream his father had for him – is the NBA.

As McCalop sees it, the biggest obstacles to the NBA are putting weight on his lean frame and getting noticed by the right people.

“I know a few G-League coaches,” McCalop said. “I want to give it one more season overseas to keep eating and working out the way I do. Hopefully I can get a [G-League] roster spot and then from there move forward.”

A prodigious dunker in college, McCalop won the 2016 NAIA dunk contest as a student at the University of Science and Arts in Oklahoma.

“I think he has a really high ceiling,” Siggers said. “He’s a slasher and he plays great off the ball. He’s super marketable, and as a [jumper] can really draw a crowd.”

While McCalop searches for the right opportunity abroad, he recently began performing for the Harlem Wizards, a travel team that fuses comedic basketball and entertainment.

“I’m happy,” McCalop said. “I’ll stay until I get a better financial offer.”

Wherever McCalop ends up, he’s confident he can hold his own against the best players in the world. He cited an offseason open run at Dallas Baptist University that featured a matchup with point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, of the Utah Jazz, to illustrate that point.

“He played hard to win – He’s a great player; young, talented and athletic; he can score at will,” McCalop remembered. “It’s not easy. But, just because you play in the NBA doesn’t mean I’m going to let you do what you got to do on me.”

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