Milford Mill's Isaiah McCray signs with Colgate
When the time came for Isaiah McCray to pick a high school, the talented young combo guard was briefly torn between a local private school and Milford Mill.
While the basketball aspect of both high schools that McCray considered was fine, there was a notable difference that gave the edge to the Millers: advanced placement classes.
“His father took him to the [private] school, let him stay there and ask around,” said Fred McCathorine, McCray’s coach with the Crusader Nation youth basketball program. “And he said, ‘I don’t want to go there because I want to do the advanced placement classes and I want to do the college prep classes. This school just doesn’t have what I need to do.’ He checked into Milford Mill and found out that they did. From the beginning, from the time I met him as a middle school kid, I knew he was a kid that was truly a student first, and then an athlete.”
Over the next three years at Milford Mill, McCray proved his coach correct by starring on the court for the Millers, and earning consistently high marks in the classroom. So when it came time this fall for McCray to pick a college, the 3.7 student once again made academics his top priority. On Wednesday, during a ceremony at Milford Mill, McCray signed a letter of intent to attend Colgate, a Patriot League school located in Hamilton, N.Y.
“What really made the biggest difference was their philosophy of not only looking at the next four years, but looking at the next 40 years of my life. That really meant something to me,” McCray said. “With the resources they have, I just felt like it was a comfortable situation. ... It’s basically like an Ivy League school, but not in the Ivy League. I want a challenging education for myself, and Colgate will provide it.”
The 6-foot-1 McCray, who picked the Raiders over offers from Jacksonville, Loyola, New Hampshire and Wagner, plans to study either accounting or business management in college.
The Colgate staff first expressed interest in McCray after his 10th-grade year. While there were peaks and valleys in the contact over the next couple of years, the Raiders recruited McCray harder than any other program, following him on the spring and summer circuit and making the six-hour drive from Hamilton to Baltimore County for his high school games. McCray returned the favor by taking his lone official visit to Colgate last weekend.
“The main thing that really stuck out to me is that everybody on campus is really together,” he said. “I really enjoyed everybody’s comfort level. Everywhere you went, you really felt like it’s a family, throughout the whole school. The whole school isn’t about basketball. Every sport is attuned to every other sport. And it’s a college town. That’s what really brought it out to me. It’s a home away from home with a great supporting cast. It’s a beautiful campus at night time. It’s just amazing. The people there are positive every single day. It’s not just one thing – it’s every day.”
On the court, McCray – who helped the Millers to the Class 3A state championship last spring – thinks he’ll fit in well with Colgate’s up-tempo system. McCathorine said McCray’s intelligence and athleticism will serve him well with the Raiders.
“As I’ve watched Isaiah, the thing I would say most about him is that you’ll see a very, very focused person who understands what it takes academically, and who understands what it takes physically in terms of getting his body ready,” McCathorine said. “In terms of a basketball player, he understands that it’s more than shooting. It’s about getting to the basket and moving one step further to run this team from the point guard position. He can distribute the ball and run the team. He understands the position and calls the right plays. He’s a very, very smart person basketball-wise and academic-wise. So put the ball in his hands and explain to him what you want him to do with it, and he’ll get that done.”
For McCray, Wednesday was an exciting and moving day for him. McCray’s family, friends, coaches, teachers, school administrators and even members of the Board of Education were on hand to watch him sign his letter of intent.
“I’m not going to lie,” McCray said, “I broke down in the middle of my ceremony, looking at my mother and father. They were emotional. It’s been a really emotional time. I just really enjoyed the whole thing – the whole ride with Coach Mac at Crusader Nation and with Coach Albert Holley at Milford. The journey is not really over for Milford. We still have a lot of things to look forward to. It’s been a really good run. I’ve loved every step of the way. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for myself. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Baltimore Sun photo of Isaiah McCray by Gene Sweeney Jr. / Jan. 4, 2009