Jameel McKay had many of the top schools in the country recruiting him this past year. The 6-foot-8 freshman at Indian Hills Community College, however, didn’t have to look far in deciding where to play his college ball.
“Why go far when there’s an elite program right where I’m from?” McKay said.
That thinking, along with an impressive unofficial visit to Milwaukee last week, was all McKay needed to make his decision to return home and commit to play for Buzz Williams and Marquette. McKay will arrive on campus next summer, and have two years of eligibility remaining.
And it didn’t take McKay long after his visit to make his decision, either. Less than 24 hours after his tour of the campus and Marquette’s facilities, he had his mind made up.
“Right after the visit, all I could think about was how hard it would be to turn down playing at home,” McKay said. “I thought about it all night, and when I woke up the next morning and was still thinking about it, I knew my decision.”
McKay said he chose the Golden Eagles over Florida, Iowa State and Memphis.
The Milwaukee native will return home, where he played his high school ball at Pulaski High School. There, he was named the City Conference player of the year and to the all-state team in 2010.
Last year at Indian Hills, McKay continued his impressive play. He averaged 14.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and was named a first team All-American, the same honor Darius Johnson-Odom received as a freshman at Hutchinson Community College.
Williams and Marquette began recruiting McKay after his senior season at Pulaski, and officially offered him at the beginning of his freshman season.
He had taken unofficial visits on campus, but Williams did his best selling job last Friday, when McKay visited the campus with his two uncles.
“It was great,” McKay said. “Honestly, it was better than I expected. I had been on campus before, but to have the opportunity to talk to Buzz and the players, that was great.
“(Buzz) told me a different side other than basketball, and I felt like he cared. Actually, I know that he cared. He showed me things and he proved things that no other coach in the country could.”
Through his Milwaukee connections, McKay said he knew Vander Blue and Jamil Wilson from playing locally. He also had spoken with Juan Anderson prior to his visit. Roderick Bobbitt, Indian Hills’ point guard, was Anderson’s teammate at Castro Valley H.S.
And as the third recruit from Milwaukee to commit for the 2013 class, McKay also has a friendship with 6-foot-5 wing Deonte Burton, who committed to Marquette last September.
Two years ago, the duo played for Terry Porter Elite on the AAU circuit, and McKay said he spoke with Burton and point guard commit Duane Wilson shortly after his commitment.
“I feel like I’m already comfortable playing with them to where it will be an easier transition,” McKay said. “I’ll fit in a little bit more, and I think as far as recruiting, more people are starting to stay closer to home. It’s great that I’ll be able to play with two top-50 players from Milwaukee.”
McKay had a chance to play in an open gym setting with most of the current players. He guarded Blue for much of the afternoon (he primarily defended guards at Indian Hills last year), and saw firsthand how he would fit in Marquette’s up-tempo system.
“It was a good fit. I’ll fit right in,” McKay said. “It’s everything I’m already used to, and it reminds me so much of how I’m playing now (at Indian Hills).”
If being able to play in the actual system wasn’t enough, McKay said he also enjoyed Williams showing him game footage of Jimmy Butler and Lazar Hayward, two players the freshman feels he can emulate in Milwaukee.
Weighing 205 pounds, McKay said he sees himself in a similar role Butler played at Marquette, with the ability to have more of an inside game once he arrives in Milwaukee and puts on extra weight.
“(Buzz) showed me film, and how it’s not about positions,” McKay said. “You’re a player, and he is going to put the five best players on the court, regardless of anything like that.”
If McKay does see himself in the same mold as Butler, it helped that Williams found the Tomball, Tx. native from the junior college ranks. McKay had said he was looking for a coach who understood junior college players, and could shape them for the next level.
“Some coaches can say they have success, but they either have low team success and high player success, or high team success and low player success,” McKay said. “But Buzz showed me that last year, his best players were junior college players. And he showed me that, just because you’re not joining the same way as other players, everything is equal.”
The 2013 commit says his best attribute is rebounding the ball, something that will come in handy his senior season when Davante Gardner, Jamil Wilson and potentially Chris Otule are set to graduate.
For now, McKay said he has three goals in mind before his Marquette career begins one year from now.
“I want to win a national championship, and I want to be a second time All-American,” he said. “And off the court, I want to finish up strong in the classroom to make sure I’m good to be at Marquette. I don’t want to take any summer school. I want to get there and be with the team right away.”