Payne, Smith, Jackson play key roles as coaches and mentors

Coach Ray McCallum is our head coach, but our assistant coaches have a lot of experience, too.

Coach Jermaine Jackson was able to experience what it’s like to be in the NBA, coach Steve Payne took his talents overseas and played in one of the best leagues there for 14 years and coach Jay Smith helped coach one of the best teams in college basketball history, The Fab Five.

With all this experience and knowledge, our coaches are able to help us on the court, as well as off the court. For that, we treat each other as family. 

While talking to coach Smith, I found out some information that I never know about him and head coach McCallum. They both went on a recruiting visit to Ball State University on the same day in high school. They met for the first time there, in 1978.

Coach McCallum decided to go to Ball State while Coach Smith took his talents to Bowling Green. They later met back up as an assistants at Michigan. They always kept in touch and when coach McCallum took this job, timing worked out for coach Smith to come on as an assistant. 

A fun fact about coach Smith is that he is the all-time leading scorer in Michigan high school basketball history. He played for Mio 1976-79.

Coach Payne also had a good career at Ball State, starting in 86 of the 88 games he played and ranking as the fifth best power forward in the country at the time.

After his college career ended, he played in Europe for numerous years, ending his career at the age of 37. 

When asked about what he likes about coaching, he said that it allows him to stay close to the game that he loves and to way to mentor kids to be a better person, graduate with a college degree and help them pursue a professional career in basketball. 

Coach Jackson, the newest addition to the staff, is a great mentor for us because he has been and played where we all want to play, the NBA. 

He played for the University of Detroit Mercy when they upset UCLA in the NCAA tournament in 1999, and he is able to relate to us because he has been in our exact shoes before and was able to get to the league and have a successful pro career.

 Coach Jackson was able to talk about his experience as a player and the difference now that he is coaching. 

“The difference for me being a coach and player is as player I was in control on the floor and as a coach I’m not in control of what goes on the floor,” he said. “I’m depending on my players to make good decisions on the floor and play hard. Another difference is as a coach I’m responsible for all my players on and off the court. Whatever they do, it is a reflection of me and our program.”  

Our team wouldn’t be the team we are now without these caring coaches. Much respect.


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This past weekend we beat Northeastern University, a tough team.

The Huskies had beaten 15th-ranked University of Miami and Harvard before playing us.

This was a great win for us, especially because we had just come off a tough loss to the 16th-ranked team in the country, Vanderbilt. (We lost by 50 points.)

It’s not easy to bounce back from such a big loss.

I would say the two days we had before our game against Northeastern saw us come together as brothers and correct our mistakes and build on them, which in the end gave us the win Saturday afternoon. 

This is how the turnaround started.

Thursday morning we woke up early to catch a flight back home. We got back on campus around 1:30 p.m., allowing time for us to get to our classes for the rest of the day.

Around 4:30 p.m. we came back to the gym to watch film and correct what we did wrong against Vanderbilt. 

We also had a discussion about how we have to come together as one to beat the next team.

We hope to carry the momentum we got from beating Northeastern into our next couple of home games leading into Christmas break.

We take on Bowling Green University on Saturday, Dec. 12, at 1 p.m. The home stand will end with Central Florida on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 1 p.m.


Bass is a VN staff writer and member of the men’s basketball team