"I'm Crazy About Kentucky"
Indiana's "Mr. Basketball" Heads South To Land Of Roundball
Here's a riddle. What's the difference in the UK basketball team which lost in the finals of the East Regional last March and the UK basketball team which a lot of people are picking as the best team in the nation this fall?
Answer: Kyle Macy.
For those who have just returned from an extended stay on Neptune, Macy is the 6-3 guard who was considered one of the best high school seniors in the nation back in '75. He went to Purdue and played his freshman year, playing well enough to be named to Basketball Weekly's All-Freshman second team. In his first Big Ten game, Macy scored 38 points against Minnesota. On the year, the hotshot from Peru, Ind., averaged 13 points a game fo   :he Boilermakers.
Two summers ago, Macy decided to transfer to UK, where he was forced to sit out last season. Now, Macy is eligible, and the Wildcats are counting heavily on him to provide the glue that cements the 1978 UK team's name to the national championship trophy.
Kentucky coach Joe Hall said at the UK Press day, "I'm not going to do any coaching this year. I'm just going to turn the offense and the defense over to Kyle and let him take it from there." Hall said that jokingly, but the statement did indicate just the kind of expectations UK has for Macy.
All right, then. Just who is Kyle Macy and why are they saying all
these nice things about him? Well, Macy is a good-shooting guard (everybody from Indiana is a good shooter) who was the Hoosier State's "Mr. Basketball" his senior year in high school. As a prepster at Peru, Macy played uner the tutelage of his father, who happened to be the Peru head coach.
At Purdue, Macy was a part of a wonderfully-talented team (Walter Jordan, Bruce Parkinson, Wayne Walls, Jerry Sichting) that, according to Kyle, had little direction. "With all the individual styles of play at Purdue, " recalls Macy, "I didn't think they had confidence in me. There was no take-charge guy, and that's what you need.
Macy did not feel comfortable at Purdue, so he packed up all his cares and woes and headed for Lexington, Ky. Why UK? "It was one of my four final college choices," says Kyle, the other three were Purdue, UCLA, and Cincinnati.
Even though Macy was not particularly enthused with the one-on-one joking and jiving at Purdue, his freshman year was nonetheless an eye-opener for some. "Personally, I wasn't surprised at my performance as a freshman," he claims, "but some people had questioned my abilities because I played at a small high school. They said the competition I played against wasn't very good. Well,
The Little General, Macy
I'd grown up in Fort Wayne which is a pretty good-sized city and I always believed I had the talent. Every player has to have that confidence in his own abilities."
"Some games," continues Macy, "I scored a lot of points, because the shot was there. Other games, I concentrated on other things, setting up whoever had the hot hand."
Then, in the summer of '76, it was exit Purdue, enter Kentucky for Kyle. Macy's first year as a Wildcat was spent practicing with the team, but watching the games from the bench in civvies. "It did seem long at times," admits Macy. "I wish I'd been playing. But whenever I'd get down for a few days, someone would recognize me and go out of their way to talk with me and offer some encouragement. That made me feel better."
Kyle also was impressed by the Kentucky brand of "Southern Hospitality." Says the Hoosier expatriate, "I'm crazy about kentucky. People are always nice to you when you're being recruited, but the people here are outgoing and friendly all the time. That's something you never notice until you spend some time in a place."
It was the warm reception he received from Kentuckians that helped make sitting out a season easier to swallow. "You know, looking back on last year," offers Macy, "it really went pretty fast after all."
Last year has given way to right now, and Macy has forsaken his civvies for a Wildcat uniform. The thought of getting back into competition does not exactly repulse Macy, as he says, "I'm looking forward to playing again. Last year was the first year I hadn't played organized basketball since I was in the fourth grade."
Will rustiness and the long layoff from game action be a problem for Macy? He doesn't think so. "If I am a little rusty, I should be able to work it out in the Blue-White games and the game against the Russians," he maintains.
That year on the bench was not spent counting the house or eating popcorn. According to Kyle, "It helped me learn the offense and defense, so I don't think I'll be like a freshman coming in. Also, I had the chance to see the other conference teams and get to know their personnel and styles of play."
The fact that folks around the Bluegrass are expecting big things from Macy does not particularly phase him. "There's always pressure to do well, even if it comes from yourself," says Macy. "I know people are expecting a lot, but I feel if I work hard things will fall into place."
The man Kyle will be replacing in the UK lineup is Larry Johnson, the swift backcourtman who doubled as a defensive whiz. "We lost a lot of leadership when Larry left," contends
Macy. "He and Merion (Haskins, UK's other graduated senior) were both leaders on and off the court. Hopefully, I'll be able to provide some of their leadership this year. I hope to pick up the outside shooting a little and maybe add a little more consistency. And, of course, I'll be trying to get the ball into the big men."
Macy doesn't see his role as strictly a feeder for Rick Robey and Mike Phillips, though. "With the guys we've got, you'd be kind of stupid not to try to get the ball into them. But it
Kyle Macy
works both ways. You help them and they can help you. You can take some of the defensive pressure off them with outside shooting, and they can open it up for you with their inside game."
The slender wildcat adds, "this team does not consist of stereotyped roles for each player. We try to adjust to whatever the situation dictates."
During his brief stint in the gold and black of Purdue, Macy had the opportunity (or misfortune, however you want to look at it) to play all four of the 1976 national semifinalists --national champ Indiana (twice), runner-up Michigan, plus semifinal losers UCLA and Rutgers. Ergo, Kyle has observed some of the nation's best in action, both as a freshman at Purdue and as an observer from the UK bench last year. What this is all leading to, naturally, is: how does Macy rate the latest edition of the UK roundballers? Do the Cats have what it takes to go the distance in the NCAA?
"We compare very well to those Final Four teams as far as talent goes," says Macy. "We've got a lot of size and weight, and we have the ability. It's just a matter of how hard we work. And, it takes a lucky break sometimes. But if we work hard, things could work out for us."
That, like everything else in basketball remains to be proved on the court. If Kentucky does, though, wind up cutting down the nets in St. Louis next March after the final game (and there are worse bets to make), one of the reasons will surely be the performance p .(he,-fellow from Peru,-.Ind-..  >.-.<.