LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Rodney McCray has always been appreciative of the time that Denny Crum invested to make McCray a better basketball player and person. McCray said that he tries to thank Crum, his coach at the University of Louisville, whenever he sees him.

But these days McCray does more than simply thank his former coach. He also apologizes.


McCray, 53, coaches high school basketball in Houston. He understands the craziness that players create around their coaches.

“It's a handful,” McCray said. “I see what coach Crum and all the guys go through. It makes you think about it differently.”

For McCray, it is about to become more than simply a handful. It's about to become wall-to-wall recruiting zaniness. His best player at Victory Prep High School in Houston is Jarred Vanderbilt.

Check the recruiting rankings for the high school class of 2017. Rivals.com places Vanderbilt as the 10th best prospect nationally in his class.

Scout.com and 247Sports.com say Vanderbilt is better than that. Those two services rank him fourth in his class.

ESPN loves Vanderbilt even more. He's the third-best best prospect on the ESPN list, trailing only DeAndre Ayton, a center from San Diego and small forward Michael Porter, who lives in Columbia, Miss.

Vanderbilt is considered the top power forward – with the mix tape to prove it.

No wonder Kentucky, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Texas A&M and others are pursuing McCray's best player. They've all scouted Vanderbilt. So has Louisville.

“Jarred's got a chance to be special,” McCray said. “His basketball IQ is off the charts. He's got some special skills.”

How special? I asked McCray if Vanderbilt was a better basketball player than Rodney McCray.

“You know what, at this stage, as a sophomore in high school and my stage as a sophomore in high school, yes,” McCray said. “He's got a chance to be really good.

“He's just got to work on his outside shot and start taking them. He can get to the bucket. He can handle the ball like a guard. So he relies on just getting to the bucket every time. I tell him the good teams aren't going to allow that.

“You've got to take the shot. You've got to prove to them you're willing to take it.

He's starting to take it. He was the MVP of session two in Lexington of the (Nike) EYBL. Like I said, he's got a chance to be special.”

If Vanderbilt becomes better than Rodney McCray, then he truly will be a special player. Today's players do not remember McCray. He said that he has to bring memorabilia, scrapbooks and his championships rings from the University of Louisville (1980) and the Chicago Bulls (1993) to convince his players that he once played with the absolute best.

But people in this town know.

They know that McCray moved into the starting lineup after his brother, Scooter, suffered a knee injury and then protected the middle as a powerful 6-foot-7 center for the 1980 Cards who beat UCLA for the NCAA title.

They know that he also played in the 1982 and 1983 Final Fours, starring for the U of L team that defeated UK in the Dream Game. His final U of L team won 32 of 36 games and McCray was selected third in the 1983 NBA Draft after Ralph Sampson and Steve Stipanovich. He was drafted in front of Byron Scott, Clyde Drexler and Doc Rivers.

They also know that McCray played 10 seasons in the NBA for Houston, Sacramento, Dallas and the Bulls. He averaged double figures in his first eight seasons and led the NBA in minutes played 1990. He scored more than 9,000 points and grabbed more than 5,000 rebounds.

Yes, Rodney McCray could play.

And now he can coach.

He moved into the profession four years ago after working as a homebuilder in Houston, where he played the first five seasons of his NBA career with the Rockets. Victory Prep finished 21-10 last season, playing primarily underclassmen, led by Vanderbilt.

“It's been great working with young people, showing them how to play the game the right way,” McCray said. “But it's definitely made me appreciate Coach Crum.”

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