Since transferring to the school after his freshman year, junior Mike McCalister has established himself as a force at small forward/guard for the West Orange High basketball team. This year, McCalister was also named one of the team’s co-captains going into the season.
When did you first get into basketball?
When I was young I just started training, and then the first two years in middle school I got cut. Then, in eighth grade, I finally made the team, and I just started working from there.
What’s your favorite thing about playing at West Orange?
Just the hype, fans cheering, my teammates — they’re like brothers to me — and just the campus in general.
What is your favorite part about playing basketball?
Getting my teammates involved, and getting the fans involved, because once we get them involved it’s like a whole different level on the court.
What is the most challenging part about playing basketball?
Fighting adversity. Say we go on a run, and then they go on a run and then everyone is down. Picking them back up is always a challenge we have to face.
What are the most fun, and most difficult, aspects of playing at small forward and guard?
Most fun would be being able to do everything on the court — rebound, bring the ball up, shoot and everything. The most challenging would be rebounding, for sure. Going up against big guys — 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 dudes.
Is there a highlight moment that stands out to you during your high-school career so far?
Last year I worked my butt off and made varsity, and then I started my whole sophomore year.
What was that first year of varsity like for you?
It wasn’t that hard because he (head coach Eric Jones) had me play up, and I mean, I just took it in and ran with it.
What are the best words of advice you’ve been given about basketball?
Never give up, and do what you gotta do.
Coming into the season, do you have any goals set for yourself?
Get myself known more, and then during a game get five points a quarter — that’s 20 points a game — and then at least get a double-double with rebounds.
As far as the team goes, do you have any expectations of how the season goes?
Make it far and deep in playoffs. If we get to states, I’ll take it — if we make it far into states, I’ll take it.
For you, what is the end goal when it comes to basketball?
Making it far — getting to the NBA. And if I can’t do that, then help younger kids and be a role model to them.
After a game, if you could have your ideal meal, what would it be?
I like hibachi, or I’ll get myself a milkshake and a burger — I’d be fine with that.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?
Bora Bora, because all the pictures I have seen, it’s just beautiful — the water, the beach and the communities.