E 8 THE CATS' PAUSE, DECEMBER 9, 1978
Kyle Macy Turns Comedian For Fiesty Young Wildcats
When Kentucky took the floor in their 109-77 season opening win over LaSalle, the Rupp Arena announcer reminded the frenzied crowd that Kentucky was the defending national champion. The team burst through a banner with 1978 National Champions written on it.
Kentucky guard Kyle Macy, only one of two returning regulars from last year's team, thought it strange.
"When we took the floor, they said 'Defending National Champs'," said the ice-veined Macy. "I looked around and it was a whole new team. It was kind of funny."
While Macy may have found it amusing, you might have had trouble getting a laugh out of the LaSalle locker room after the game. In fact, you may have had touble convincing LaSalle that they had not just met the national champs.
No< one expected Kentucky to play like they did against LaSalle. Few people expected Kentucky to play that well at any time during the season, but much less in the season opener.
Even the floor general Macy did not know what to expect.
"This year we are so young. We didn't know what to expect. It was kind
of a mystery. We just tried to go out and hustle."
Kentucky's inexperienced frontline dominated the boards in the early going and Macy admitted to being a little surprised by that.
' 'It was good that they came out and played with more aggressiveness than they had in practice. They hit the boards hard."
Macy was the only Wildcat to play more than 22 minutes, going for 33 minutes. The scoring, rebounding, and time played was balanced evenly. Macy hopes to see that continue.
"Hopefully we can keep that up. We won't have to depend on a starting five. We got on top tonight and we relaxed."
Macy finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. In the second half, LaSalle played a zone with a chase on Macy.
"I was surprised they chased me the second half. With our team concept, that is unusual. Tim [Stephens] started hitting and they found out we are not a one-man team.
Kentucky may not be a one-man team, but freshman forward Clarence Tillman feels much of the credit has to go to Macy.
"You can't compare another guard with Macy," said Tillman, who scored 12 points and had four rebounds in his Kentucky debut. "He is so smart and smooth and he helps the other players. You see him so cool and calm and it makes you feel relaxed. He took over."
Tillman feels this year's team can continue the winning Kentucky tradition.
"I know Phillips, Lee, Givens and them left their mark here. We have to start over. We've got to do our job. Last year is over with. We are going to start from scrap."
Tillman and LaSalle Ail-American Michael Brooks are both from Philadelphia, and Saturday's meeting was not their first.
"I played against him in high school. I, Brooks, Reggie Jackson, and Gene Banks were on the all-city team when I was a sophomore. We played against each other about twice a year. We are good friends."
Did Brooks say anything to the newcomer in the college game?
"Yea, when I first walked out, he told me I deserved more playing time. He told me that out on the court,"
Clarence Tillman Plays The Big "D
smiled Tillman. "I don't know why he said that. I just told him, 'Yeah, well I'm here now and I'm just going to try the best I can.'"
Tillman said this game meant a little extra to him.
"I was real fired up for this one. I was psyched up. This game was broadcast back to my hometown. I had calls from there today from friends. And my Dad came down and he talked to me. It calmed me down and when I hit that first shot, it helped a lot."
Tillman felt all week long he would have a good opener. "This week in practice I played well. I'm starting to learn the plays. I felt relaxed this week."
Was he nervous before the 23,000 people for the first time,?
"I wasn't really that nervous. I don't know why."
Kentucky's leading scorer was sophomore Freddie Cowan with 17 points, hitting five of nine shots. Cowan was also the leading rebounder with eight. The 6-9 Union County graduate approached the game philosophically.
"All I said was I was going out and hustle and do my best. That's all I can do. This was the first game and everybody was up high and I was, too."
It was Cowan's first real test under fire. He says his good performance will help his confidence.
"A whole lot. I was real nervous, but it got me psyched up. I realized the seniors are gone. Lavon, Chuck, and I have to do the job now. Nobody is going to bail us out. We have to take it on ourselves.
Cowan says the play of the freshmen helps make his job easier.
"It feels good when I go out and Clarence and Chuck go in. I think we got the best freshmen in the nation and they proved that."
Cowan remembered something Hall had said as he talked about his offensive board work.
"Coach Hall says the only place you can be selfish is on the offensive board. That's the way I look at it."
Cowan had his doubts last year about himself and Kentucky. Now that is over.
"Every freshman has some second thoughts. Last year I did. That's natural. Last year was the first time in my life I didn't start. Now I look ahead."
Overall, Cowan was pleased with the team's performance.
"We are going to make mistakes. We are a young team. But for the first time together, we played well."
Was anyone there special to see Cowan in his first collegiate start?
"No, not really. My father is a minister. He has to get ready to preach tomorrow.''
For LaSalle, their lesson came Saturday night.