Ernie McCray is an athlete, educator, actor, activist, TucsonCitizen.com blogger and overall keen observer of the human condition.
He’s a treasure.
McCray also is, after nearly 53 years, still the Arizona Wildcats’ record holder with 46 points in a single game.
McCray, who grew up near the UA campus and was an all-state basketball player at Tucson High, lives in San Diego now, but he sat down recently for a conversation with the Arizona athletic department, which posted a two-part interview on YouTube (see below).
McCray talks about growing up in Tucson, playing at Bear Down Gym, Arizona coach Sean Miller … and that enduring single-game scoring record, set Feb. 6, 1960, in a win vs. Cal State-Los Angeles.
“There have been so many great basketball players come through here after me — Sean Elliott and Bob Elliott and Coniel Norman and (Mike) Bibby and all those guys,” McCray said. “I like that it’s allowed me to be mentioned with them.”
The closest anyone has come in the past 18 years is guard Jerryd Bayless. He had 26 first-half points vs. Arizona State, finishing with 39 in a loss on Feb. 10, 2008.
“I thought I was going to see it broken, and I wanted to see it broken, because it was on national TV,” McCray said. “My wife was still living then and I remember saying, ‘Hey, babe, c’mon in here, we’re going to see my record broken.’
“And here’s my little ‘me’ moment. I was thinking, ‘They break that record and they’re going to be looking to see what the record is, and I’m going to have my name mentioned on national TV.’”
Damon Stoudamire came the closest to McCray’s record — 45 points vs. Stanford on Jan. 14, 1995.
“I wouldn’t mind it being broken at all, just to see some young person have that joy,” McCray said. “It’s kind of an impressive record, being in the zone. We didn’t call it being in the zone then; we called it ‘got hot.’”
McCray, a lean 6-6 center, was hot for most of his senior season in 1959-1960, playing for coach Fred A. Enke. McCray averaged 23.9 points and 12.2 rebounds.
“The team we had didn’t have much outside shooting ability,” assistant coach Bruce Larson told UA in 2010. “That’s what Coach Enke used to stress, ‘Get the ball to Ernie.’ He should have touched the ball on every possession.”
Below is the two-part interview with McCray, and you can check out his TucsonCitizen.com blog (“From the Soul”).