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West at East High basketball

East's Jailen Billings guards West's Cliff McCray during basketball action at East High last season.

SIOUX CITY | Cliff McCray enjoyed a solid sophomore season for West High then came the summer and the Wolverine junior point guard became one of the state’s fastest rising recruits.

McCray, who plays for the Sioux City-based Showtime Hoopers on the AAU circuit, displayed his speed and an improving shot to generate plenty of interest from area colleges.

“At the beginning of the summer I didn’t think I would do any of the stuff I did, but I went to big tournaments and was playing against good teams,” McCray said. “I just learned to always be competitive, keep your head up and don’t let people catch you with your head down."

It put him among the top 20 in-state recruits by some services.

His success comes with little surprise from West High Coach CoCo Cofield.

“He is one of those gym rats and he loves being in the gym and working on his game each and every day,” Cofield said. “When he plays a tough opponent on the circuit he shows that he can play at that level.”

His strong play has brought interest from North Dakota State, South Dakota, Augustana (S.D.), Southwest Minnesota State, IUPUI and Wayne State among others.

McCray’s play also proved to himself that he has the ability and desire to push as far as he wants to go on the hardwood.

Cofield, who was a point guard himself during his playing days, said McCray’s willingness to get everyone around him involved makes him a special point guard.

“He will rebound, assist, defend and he can shoot the ball and get to the hole by being very athletic and being able to jump,” he said. “He brings all that energy to the table when he plays.

“He is the point guard so he has to run the show and relay what I want to get done to the guys on the floor. He is a very good IQ type of guard and very smart guy in the classroom, so I think he can get the job done.”

Cofield calls McCray a triple threat who will fill up the entire scoresheet for the Wolverines this season.

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 9.5 points a game a season ago while leading the Wolverines in assists, steals and rebounds. His 53 steals ranked 11th in Class 4A.

This summer he continued to work on his ball skills but also tweaked a shot that saw him shoot 56 percent from the floor and 42 percent from the 3-point line a year ago.

“I worked on my footing, my off-hand and just a lot of little technique stuff with my shooting,” McCray said.

West graduated seven seniors off last year’s squad, including its top two scorers, meaning the Wolverines will lean on McCray to do more. He doesn’t mind the extra responsibility as it works well with the NBA player he models his game after.

“My favorite NBA player James Harden does it all so I expect myself to do it all too,” he said. “I am way more aggressive (now) and I can just do a lot more.”

McCray moved from Chicago to Sioux City before high school and Cofield believes that the tough-mindedness that he developed there has served him well.

“I came here in fifth grade and I have had that aggressiveness and that is where the (Chicago influence) comes into play,” McCray said.

McCray and the rest of his West teammates are coming off of a 12-10 campaign in 2016-17, but they are looking to contend in the MRAC this season and lift the program up.

“I have a lot of confidence in this team this year,” he said. “The whole summer we didn’t really stop and worked out every day. This team is more competitive and we want to do something. We want to change the way our school is thought of.”


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