July 11, 2014

In Vegas for NBA, McCollum Rises Early to Field Questions

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Errick McCollum during a Skype interview on Friday.
Photos by Brian Schlabach

Errick McCollum, a 6’2″ guard who scored more points than any basketball player in Goshen College history and went on to star on European courts, is now playing for a spot in the NBA.

At the invitation of the Denver Nuggets, McCollum is in Las Vegas participating in Summer League competition. Denver is fielding one of 24 teams (out of 30 NBA teams) made up of both signed players and others, like McCollum, who hope to earn a place on the roster for the regular season.

“It’s a great opportunity to play in front of 24 NBA teams,” McCollum said. “There are also a ton of European and Asian teams here. You get to put your name out there.”

At 26, McCollum is the second-oldest player on Denver’s Summer League team. McCollum, who used to dribble a tennis ball when walking across campus and always aimed to be the first player in the gym for practices, demonstrated his work ethic to Write on Sports students on Friday. He woke up around 6 a.m. local time for a video Skype interview with students, who gathered in a classroom at 9 a.m., Goshen time.

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Write on Sports students took turns asking questions.

McCollum appeared on a large screen in the classroom. In Las Vegas, using his phone, McCollum was able to see students move to the front of the classroom and sit down at a table to ask questions.

When asked how he felt playing abroad, McCollum said that he had never traveled outside of the U.S. until he was invited to play basketball professionally in Israel. “I really loved living in Israel,” he said. “I was able to see a lot of history, like the Western Wall. I tried different foods, saw different people. It felt really special being there. It also makes you appreciate the U.S. when you’re away.”

Most recently, playing for the Greek team Panionios, McCollum led the Greek League’s top division in scoring, averaging 17.7 points a game. He was named the league’s Import Player of the Year. At Goshen College, he scored 2,789 points in his career and was the first Maple Leaf in program history to be named both Mid-Central College Conference Player of the Year and an NAIA First Team All-American.

Another student asked about “The Dunk, “ which came during a Goshen game against Grace in 2010 and was featured on ESPN’s Top 10 highlight reel. “It was kind of surreal,” McCollum said. “When you’re playing for a small college, you’re there to further your education and play basketball because you love it. You don’t expect to end up onĀ  SportsCenter.”

McCollum told the students, who are heading into seventh and eighth grades, that he knew when he was in fifth grade that he wanted to study business in college and play basketball. “I had it mapped out,” he said.

After basketball, McCollum envisions himself working in marketing or sales or maybe coaching. “I like to get dressed up in a shirt and tie and deal with the public,” he said.

McCollum’s younger brother C.J., who played for Portland this past season, is on the Trail Blazers’ team at the Summer League. Given the number of teams participating, odds are that they won’t face each other on the court. If they do, they’ll compete but leave the game on the court.

The only time they fought over basketball, Errick said, was when he was in ninth grade and C.J. was in sixth. “We were fouling each other hard, and I tried to bully him,” McCollum said. “My dad came over and said, ‘Your brother is your best friend.’ Ever since that time, we never fought.”

He encouraged students to work hard, listen to their parents and stay humble. “I would like to be a piece to the puzzle on an NBA team,” he said. “The older you get, the more you realize that you are not the puzzle. You’re a piece in the puzzle.”

 

 

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