From hipster to hoopster, Augustana’s very own Cameron McCaffrey lived a different life as a child as a basketball phenomenon before playing at Augustana.
Growing up in Oregon, McCaffrey tried to stand out as much as he could. He enjoyed activities such as buying many different plaid skinnys, obtaining thick black-rimmed glasses and collecting clothes from his local thrift shop.
“Back in those days, my friends and I started a revolution,” McCaffrey said. “We didn’t want to be like anyone else, so we tried not to fit in as much as possible.”
McCaffrey was a hipster even at a young age – way before it was considered cool to go against the mainstream.
Until he was 15, McCaffrey did not have any intention of playing sports because too many people were playing them and it was uncool to follow the crowd.
“The uniforms were all the same, and I couldn’t have myself looking like that,” McCaffrey said.
But in high school, everyone started copying his trends and he needed a change. There was no basketball team for his high school so he’d form one himself.
McCaffrey went into his high school gym and started shooting around. He enjoyed the peacefulness and being away from all of his classmates.
“I had wanted to try a sport for a while,” McCaffrey said. “But since there were so many people, it wasn’t cool for me to play and it would ruin my credibility of being hipster.”
The former head basketball coach of his high school saw McCaffrey’s potential. It was obvious when he picked up the ball, and dunked for the first time as a freshman, McCaffrey was going to go places.
My coach told me that my dunk might be on a shoe someday,” McCaffrey said. “And it is, it’s on almost every pair of Jordans out there right now.”
Nicknamed “The Jumpman,” McCaffrey’s dunk is featured on Nike Air Jordan’s as Michael Jordan’s famous dunk.
He first performed the dunk during his sophomore year of high school. He got a steal, and on the breakaway, he jumped from the free throw line, legs spread open, tongue out to the right side of his mouth and slammed it with one hand.
“I had a feeling it was going to be a special dunk,” McCaffrey said.
But his dunk did not become famous until later. NBA scouts were not watching a high school basketball game where there was only one kid on the team
That being said, McCaffrey finished the season with a respectable 8-6, winning all games by himself, including a playoff game.
“It was rough at first, but I got used to playing by myself,” McCaffrey said. “It is what us hipsters do.”
There were many kids who tried out for the team the next year and were rejected because of McCaffrey’s athletic ability. He averaged a solid 58 points, 22 steals and 16 blocked shots per game. He came out as the regional state championship qualifier the next year.
McCaffrey’s senior year would turn out to be his swan song. Averaging an astounding 66 points, 30 steals and 24 blocked shots per game, McCaffrey set records in almost every high school basketball category and made it to the state championships. He lost in the semifinals by 3 points to a team with only four players.
Midway through the season, Michael Jordan took notice of McCaffrey’s talent.
Now Jordan officially made the dunk famous, but Jordan offered McCaffrey a shoe deal in 2009 when he saw him do his dunk in person. And when Jordan released the first pair of AJ 2009’s to McCaffrey as a gift, he was ecstatic.
It even had his likeness in the style of the Jumpman logo.
“What more could you ask for?” McCaffrey said. “The only thing that bothered me is that someone had done this first, I thought I had created a masterpiece.
“That’s OK, though, because what kid has their version of a Michael Jordan dunk on his own pair of shoes, you know?”
College scouts swooned over McCaffrey, and offered to give him whatever he wanted if he committed to their team.
McCaffrey was overwhelmed with letters in the mail, and distraught with the fact that he would have to be on a team with other players.
“That was hard for me to grasp at first,” McCaffrey said. “But when I realized that playing college basketball was the next step to the NBA, I knew something had to be done.”
McCaffrey searched around and found a hypnotist to make his dreams of playing college basketball a reality.
He went in and talked to the hypnotist about getting hypnotized to not be a hipster, and to find it OK that he had multiple teammates. The hypnotist started the procedure, butMcCaffrey was still skeptical.
“I did it on a whim,” McCaffrey said. “But hey, if it works, it works.”
The next day he played a game of pickup basketball at his local YMCA. He shared the ball, made play calls and had a great time.
Augustana did not specifically recruit McCaffrey because of all the colleges competing for him.
McCaffrey took notice of Augustana because of the lack of pressure by the college.
He visited with head coach Tom Billeter, and the meeting went well.
“Cam is a really nice guy and an excellent player,” Billeter said. “I knew he would make a great addition to our team. And obviously he has.”
The first day McCaffrey stepped onto Augustana’s campus, he had a startling realization. There were already dozens of so-called hipsters. He didn’t need to stand out with his clothes or style anymore. He could stand out with his sweet basketball dunk skills.
From that day on, McCaffrey wanted to remember his past but put it aside, for he had a mission at Augustana: to bring the team to the NCAA tournament and possibly win a title.
And as the old saying goes, the rest is history. . .