Isaiah McCray had his heart set on Colgate for months, but a late coaching change at the Patriot League school forced the Milford Mill combo guard to alter his college plans.
McCray, a 6-foot-1 senior, felt "hurt" when Raiders coach Emmett Davis was fired in March. The Millers captain and three-year starter gave Davis' successor a chance, but by then his feelings had changed.
"I didn't feel a sense of home like I had felt with Coach Davis," said McCray, who signed with Colgate in November. "I told my parents and … they felt pretty much the same thing. … I just felt like it was time to back out, make better choices, make better moves. It was just time to make changes."
Fortunately for McCray, several other opportunities arose after he was released from his letter of intent – including one with a Colgate connection. Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne – better known as IPFW – added former Raiders assistant Jon Coffman to its staff."He showed some film on me [to IPFW coach Tim Jasick], they took a strong interest [and] I couldn't let it go. I couldn't leave that opportunity," said McCray, who committed to the Mastodons during a visit to Fort Wayne over the Memorial Day weekend. "It felt much better than what I felt at Colgate. It's a great thing."
McCray, a Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selection who averaged 10.5 points, four rebounds, 2.5 assists, two steals and 1.5 blocks as a senior, also drew interest from New Hampshire, Northeastern and Quinnipiac. Millers coach Albert Holley thought IPFW was "a great fit" for his star guard.
"He got an opportunity to play right away," Holley said. "They've got a good team returning, a good team in the Summit League. He had a chance to contribute right away as a freshman. [The coaches like] his ability to play the 1 or the 2, his strength, his ability to get to the basket and his on-the-ball defense."
At Milford Mill, McCray became accustomed to winning. He guided his team to back-to-back Class 3A state titles, and in his three years as a starter, the Millers went 72-9 – including an undefeated mark in Baltimore County. Had McCray ended up at Colgate, he would have joined a rebuilding program coming off a 7-23 campaign. At IPFW, however, McCray is expected to contribute right away for a team that went 18-12 during the 2010-11 season.
"From Day One, I just felt a sense of great things," McCray said. "Coming off an 18-12 season, [IPFW was] well over. 500. It felt like a great situation for me. And surprisingly, I was the first recruit that they had called for the 2011 class. So it felt even better with that. … I fell in love with it when I got there. I was happy."
McCray, a 3.7 student who's considering a major in accounting or psychology, said his family, friends and coaches were supportive of his switch from Colgate to IPFW. And they're all excited for him to carry his winning ways from high school onto college.
"I just hope to bring leadership [and] everything I learned from Milford," McCray said. "I hope I bring … a winning presence from a winning school. I'm just happy to be part of the program. I can't wait to meet all the guys. I just can't wait to get on campus and just start a new legacy like the legacy I left at Milford."
Baltimore Sun photo of Isaiah McCray by Gene Sweeney Jr. / March 10, 2011