BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — For as long as he can remember, Greg McCall has been addicted to basketball.
The head women's basketball coach at California State University, Bakersfield said he had his hands on a basketball before he could even walk.
"My mom said that my first word was ball," McCall said. "I don't remember that, but all I know is that I have been loving it ever since. For me, it's an addiction. I don't know what I would do without it in my life."
Basketball has completely consumed the life of the 6-foot-6 former guard/forward, from his collegiate playing days at Reedley College and CSUB, where he helped lead the Roadrunners to a Division II Final Four appearance in 1991, to a 10-year coaching stint at Taft College, to his current role at the helm of the 'Runner women's program.
The game has even dominated the Birmingham, Ala. native's family life as well as all three of his children not only share his same passion for basketball, but his physical height and skills on the court. His oldest daughter, Dewanna Bonner, is a standout 6-foot-4 guard/forward for the Phoenix Mercury. In the 2012 season, the 25 year old was second in the WNBA in scoring with an average of 20.6 points per game.
His youngest daughter, Erica, is a 6-foot-4 senior post at Ridgeview High School in Bakersfield where she nearly averages a triple-double every time she steps on the court (20.4 points, 15.6 rebounds, 9.1 blocks per game). Ranked as No. 11 top high school recruit in the nation, she verbally committed to Stanford in November.
McCall's only son, 13-year-old Justin, is an up-and-coming sensation. At 5-6 Justin has yet to hit his growth spurt, but he wears a size-11 shoe, so it's sure to come. McCall projects Justin will be a sharp-shooting perimeter player like his oldest sister.
Workout by workout, drill by drill, as small goals where achieved and morphed into bigger ones, McCall has build a basketball family dynasty that is rocking courts across the country. But it wasn't always clear this athletic family would be a basketball family.
When he first became a father, McCall put his uncontrollable love for basketball aside and made a decision he applied to all three of his children.
"It is something that I never wanted to force on my kids," McCall said. "I just decided that was what I was going to do. Just because I am addicted to basketball, I didn't want to make them feel like it was something that they had to do."
McCall abided by his rule. Dewanna grew up wanting to be a cheerleader, then a volleyball player. Erica's passion was dancing before shifting to wanting to become the next Mia Hamm on the soccer field. Justin played football and loved track and field. McCall encouraged his children follow their passions.
However, one by one, they all began to gravitate toward basketball. Their other sports started to fall by the way side and, again, one by one at different times in their lives, Dewanna, Erica and Justin, approached their dad and told him that they wanted to commit to basketball. They didn't just want to play it, they wanted to focus on it and excel at the game.
With each child, McCall applied the same principles. He established a list of three things they all had to live by.
"I always told my kids that in order for them to be really good, they really have to take to heart three things: 'One, is to always put God first; Two, is to take school really seriously; Three, stay focused on your sport. Then things will work out.' It has to be in that order," McCall said. "Then maybe the next, not four, but a 3-a, would be 'listen to me and I will get you to where you want to go.'"
He set goals with Dewanna and Erica and is now beginning the same process with Justin.
"We set some wild goals, but looking back now, they aren't wild because all of them have come true for Dewanna and Erica," McCall said. "We said, 'if you want to do this, this is where you have to be.' We stared with being the best in school, to the best in the city, to the county, to the state, from the state to national. It all happened."
McCall coached both of his daughters on AAU teams while they were growing up and cherished the experience. When he took the head coaching position at CSUB prior to the 2011 season, Erica was in the midst of being recruited by the top programs in the country - UConn, Stanford, Duke and UCLA to name a few. When McCall accepted the position to take over the program, he once again refused to apply pressure on Erica to do what he was doing.
"I told her that I wasn't doing this so that she would come and play for me," McCall said. "This is my dream. I told her, 'if see it in your heart that you want to come play for me, then I would love it.' Who in the world wouldn't want their daughter to play for them? But through the whole process, I completely supported every decision she made and went on all of her official visits with her."
While Erica chose not to play for her father in college, she did opt to stay in California and McCall will be able to attend many more of her games than if she had picked Duke or UConn. Geography has been more kind to McCall in recent years. Dewanna grew up in Alabama, visiting McCall and playing for him and training under him in the summers, and then played her collegiate basketball for Auburn. Now she plays for the Mercury and McCall can jump in the car and seven hours later see his daughter play. Justin will begin his high school playing career next year in Bakersfield. Between his coaching duties at CSUB, and the joyful demand of watching his children play, McCall's addiction to the game is constantly being fed.
McCall pays close attention to balancing his roles as coach and father. Despite the dominant focus paid to the sport, he doesn't forget his primary position.
"After a game, I will usually talk to them for a few minutes right after about it, maybe a few minutes in the car, but, usually I don't even take the discussions to the car," McCall said. "Then I can just be dad."
The next basketball action McCall will see will be in his role as head coach for CSUB as the Roadrunners host Santa Clara on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Icardo Center. The 'Runners (2-9) will be looking to rebound from a 56-54 loss to Colorado State on Sunday, while the Broncos (5-5) are coming off a 70-59 loss to UC Davis on Sunday. CSUB leads the all-time series against Santa Clara 3-2 after dropping a 93-87 decision to the Broncos last season in Santa Clara.
This season the Broncos have been led by Meagan Fulps, who is averaging 13.6 points per game, and Ruta Zurauskyte, who is averaging 10 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest. The 'Runners are led by guards Amber Williams (Sr., Fontana, Calif., Etiwanda HS) and Tyonna Outland (R-So., Compton, Calif., Lynwood HS), who are averaging 13.7 and 12.7 points per game respectively.