Syracuse Pledge Chris McCullough Lighting It Up at IMG
One of the reasons Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim isn’t in any hurry to retire is because he knows he has talented players coming in.
One of those players is 6-foot-10 forward Chris McCullough, who figures to be a perfect fit in the 2-3 zone when he arrives next fall.
“I’m excited about the future,” Boeheim told SNY.tv last March. “We’ve got one of our better recruiting classes coming. We’ve got commitments from underclassmen that I think are very, very good players.”
After enrolling at Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy following his departure from Brewster (N.H.) Academy, McCullough is averaging 22 points and 9 rebounds. On Saturday, he went for 29 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks in IMG’s win over Elev8 Sports Academy.
“Chris is still getting used to the offensive and defensive schemes but he has adjusted greatly since arriving,” IMG coach John Mahoney told SNY.tv.
“He is getting more comfortable with each practice and game with his new team. Offensively, he is very smooth and skilled and can put it on the floor to score but he can stretch the floor with his jumper. He plays with ease.”
McCullough, 18, was ejected from Brewster in November because of a violation of team rules, and then returned to Brewster in December when IMG played a tournament there.
“It was weird,” he said of the experience in which IMG lost to Brewster in the championship game despite McCullough’s 26 points. “It felt different going back and playing there and everybody watching you.”
Still, the New York City native says he’s getting accustomed to life at IMG.
“It’s a nice campus, nice houses that you live at,” he said.
McCullough is also used to being away from home, having moved from the Salisbury (Conn.) School to Brewster and now to IMG.
“I’m used to it,” he said. “I’ve been going to prep school for five years now.”
With only a few more months left in his prep career, he’s also working on developing his game.
“I’m working on every little piece of my game,” McCullough said. “Getting better every day, playing more aggressive and harder.”
Mahoney said McCullough will be a perfect fit for the Syracuse zone.
“At Syracuse he will bring that long athlete that they like to recruit,” the coach said. “He will fit well into their zone.”
McCullough has been keeping an eye on his future team, currently 16-0 and ranked No. 2.
“I’ve been watching every game,” he said. “I think they looking good. Rakeem [Christmas] gotta pick it up a little more.”
McCullough has also been impressed with freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, who has led the Orange to an unbeaten record while manning the most important position on the floor.
McCullough said he isn’t sure if Ennis will stick around to play with him next season or head to the NBA. Some mock drafts have him as a lottery pick in 2014.
“He could go or he could stay an extra year so who knows?” McCullough said.
How good could they be together if Ennis were to stay?
“We cool so I think we have a good chemistry on the court,” he said.
Next Monday, McCullough will return close to home when IMG competes in the Coastal Academy MLK Showcase at the Hoop Group headquarters in Neptune, N.J.
His family, including his mother, Brenda Ryer, and his father, Al McCullough, are expected to watch.
“My family’s coming,” he said. “A bunch of them are coming to watch me play.”
COASTAL ACADEMY MLK SHOWCASEHOOP GROUP HEADQUARTERSMONDAY, JAN. 20, 2014
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.