By LARRY VAUGHT
It’s not like Macey Blevins had to love basketball but it certainly was easy for her to do so.
“I wouldn’t say there was no choice. When I was young I was not into sports but I always watched my brother and my dad always coached, so I was always around basketball. Then about second grade I just fell in love with it and have been playing ever since,” said Blevins, a junior at Wayne County High School.
Her father, Shane, scored 2,120 points at Monticello and was on the 12th Region championship team in 1987. Her brother, Trey, was the starting point guard on Wayne County teams that won the 12th Region in 2013 and 2014. He finished his career with 2,727 points and 760 assists. Her mother, Angie Cox Blevins, was a two-time All-American at Eastern Kentucky University after her all-state career at Pulaski County. She had 170 career 3-pointers and 488 assists, both school records at the time, along with 1,425 points. She led the Ohio Valley Conference in steals both her junior and senior seasons and later played professionally in Germany.
“Basketball was always the talk of the house,” Macey Blevins said. “Basketball runs through my entire family. My uncle, aunt, everybody … I always knew it ran in my blood but I never picked it up until second grade.”
She was a quick learner and has 2,215 points, 807 rebounds, 436 assists and 202 steals in 150 career games and has led her team in scoring, rebounding, steals and assists the last three years. She figures to be one of the leading candidates for Miss Basketball next season.
The 5-10 point guard had scholarship offers from Arizona State, Northern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Marshall, Eastern Kentucky, Austin Peay and Chattanooga before the COVID-19 crisis hit. She’s also been in contact with both Kentucky and Louisville and most recently Dayton. She did take an unofficial visit to UK last season when Kentucky hosted South Carolina.
It’s no surprise the Wayne junior has grown up a Kentucky fan.
“Big Blue Nation all the way. I was born into it. My entire family is UK fans. I have watched the basketball games … even when I played at a young age I was always watching. So I have watched Kentucky basketball games since I was born pretty much,” she said.
She has followed the careers on in-state players Maci Morris, Blair Green and Emma King on their way to Kentucky and would love to follow the same path.
“That has always been a dream of mine. I have kind of held it in the back of my head. But hopefully this summer it will become a reality but one of my biggest dreams has always been to play at Kentucky,” she said.
She had hoped summer play with Kentucky Premier in the EYBL would give UK, Louisville and other coaches a chance to evaluate her more. She’s still hoping EYBL play might start in July.
“I haven’t talked to Kentucky or Louisville recently but I knew what I did this summer would be very important for them to see because when you do well in the summer you get more offers,” Blevins said. “I have been doing some virtual visits with some schools but right now I just plan to see what happens this summer and then make my (college) decision.”
Like most players, she has no gym to work out in now. Instead, she’s shooting on the goal in her driveway and doing what weight training and running she can as well.
“I am ready for this to be over. I have never been out of a gym this long since I was a baby. I’ve always been in a gym,” she said.
Blevins believes versatility is her strength. She plays point guard on her high school but for Kentucky Premier has played on the wing or even in the post when another player got hurt.
“I can guard the post and play offense in the post,” she said. “I know how to rebound and know that’s a big part of the game. Shooting was actually the first part of my game that kind of stuck out. I used to be just a 3-point shooter, especially my seventh and eighth grade years when I played high school. They just put me in to kick out for a 3. After I started working with Jared Parmley of Kentucky Premier I got to be more of a driver but my shooting has kind of always been there.”
One former Wayne County player, Jessica Hardin, has played at Kentucky. Hardin’s father is now Blevins’ dentist and their families know each other.
“I am pretty sure all of Wayne County would be behind me if I got the opportunity and made the decision to play at Kentucky. I think that would be really cool to play there but I also have a lot of other great opportunities,” Blevins said
“I don’t think it is pressure deciding on a college because at the end of the day I will decide where I feel the most comfortable. I am just keeping all my options open. I want to go where I know I am loved there and feels like home. I am trying to not really think a lot about it and just let whatever happens happen. I just think everything happens for a reason.”
Blevins gets asked a lot about her future because she says sports are a big deal in Wayne County.
“Football, basketball, pretty much anything. It is kind of cool after when everybody that sees me out in the community always asks, ‘How are you doing? How is basketball going?’ This year we really had some good crowds,” Blevins said. “That just helps motivate you to work harder to do even more.”
Denyse and Tyrone Maxey were disappointed when their son, Tyrese, could not complete his freshman season at Kentucky due to COVID-19. However, their disappointment was nothing compared to his.
“He was the one who put in the work. He was devastated with the way the season ended,” Denyse Maxey said. “I don’t know how to put into words that he was not able to fulfill that part of his dream (at Kentucky). He was so disappointed (over not playing in the SEC or NCAA Tournaments).”
He’s been back in Texas since UK called off campus classes and is on the verge now of finishing his second semester classes.
“He does pretty good academically. We do not have to necessarily really get on him about that,” she said. “He has done a pretty good job and he can contact his academic advisor if he has any issues. He will get his work done.
“It’s harder for me to keep my 13-year-old (daughter) on schedule. She’s only an eighth-grader. College age kids get it and how to manage time and academics better. Plus, he graduated high school in the top five percent of his class.”
Maxey won’t be back at UK as he has put his name into the NBA draft. He’s projected as a consensus first-round draft pick with some mock drafts having him going into the lottery. However, he’s already made one promise to his parents.
“He has also promised us he will come back to UK and finish his degree. He knows that’s what we want him to do and he will do that,” Denyse Maxey said.
Having Tyrese Maxey back at home since late March has been a bit different for his parents.
“He is driving me crazy at times,” his mother said. “I told KP (UK assistant coach Kenny Payne) and others that they owed us money. We anticipated him being there (UK) and us not feeding him,” Denyse Maxey said. “I had let my Sam’s (Club) card go. I had to renew that membership.
“He eats breakfast and then before long is back eating again. He needs all kind of different snacks, dinner, midnight meals. It’s like he never stops eating.”
Even though the Los Angeles Raiders indicated they planned to use recent third-round draft pick Lynn Bowden at running back initially, NFL Network analyst Steve Smith Sr. says Bowden will have the biggest impact of any receiver in what most consider the best wide receiver class in years.
“What I really love about him, when he was drafted, it said running back. He played quarterback, he played wide receiver, he played running back, plays punt return, Mr. Everything,” Smith said on NFL Total Access.
Smith should know. He played 16 years with the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens and was a five-time pro bowler, two-time First Team All-Pro, and NFL Comeback Player of the Year after leading the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in 2005.
Smith compares Bowden to a former Indiana quarterback who had a terrific NFL career.
”He reminds me of a guy that was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and threw a touchdown pass to Hines Ward in the Super Bowl in 2005 which is Antwaan Randle El,” Smith said. “I love Lynn Bowden Jr. because he’s going to do everything and you know Jon Gruden is going to get in his plays and design a lot of creative things for this young man.”
After catching 30 passes for 348 yards and five scores in UK’s first five games in 2019, Bowden moved to quarterback and led the nation in yards per carry (7.9). He also led the SEC in rushing yards (1,468) and had 13 touchdowns.
Only former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, a Heisman Trophy winner, had more rushing yards at quarterback in a SEC season than Bowden. The UK star also broke the SEC single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback in the regular season finale against Louisville with 284 yards and four touchdowns. He ran for 233 yards — the most-ever by a quarterback in a bowl game — against Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops likes the idea of Bowden playing for Gruden’s Raiders.
“I think the fan base will be energized by him, and I think he will feed off that. I know Coach (Gruden), and I think the way he can relate to Lynn and get things out of him, and continue to help Lynn grow, I think that’s really important. I think it’s a really good fit, and hopefully things will work out for both sides,” Stoops said.
Just how interested is 6-11 Frank Anselem in being part of Kentucky’s 2020 recruiting class?
“It is Kentucky,” said Anselem. “Anybody would have 100 percent interest in Kentucky. You can’t mess around with them. It’s a great school with great history.”
The athletic Anselem, a one-time LSU commit, is a top 100 player in the 2020 class after reclassifying from the 2021 class. He spent last season in California playing for Prolific Prep against a difficult national schedule and has emerged as priority for coach John Calipari to help fill a void on next season’s roster.
Anselem talked to Kentucky coach John Calipari and Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus both last week again.
The potential perfect fit for Anselem at Kentucky comes because UK lost Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery to the NBA draft and needs a rim protector who can also guard multiple positions and run the court at the fast pace UK will probably play at next season. Anselem checks all those boxes.
“I talked to coach Calipari about the same thing,” Anselem said. “He said, ‘How often will a Kentucky team have nobody of my physical make up? But stuff happens and that is the situation we are in right now.’ He really likes how I fit with his system. If I sign there, the transition would go real smooth.”
Anselem played in Kentucky twice last season at the Marshall County Hoopfest and McCracken County Mustang Madness. He’s not been on Kentucky’s campus and with the COVID-19 will not be able to visit any time soon. He also won’t be able to have face-to-face meetings with any UK coach.
“Recruiting is harder definitely but all you can do is go by word of mouth since you can’t be at the physical place or meet with coaches,” Anselem said. “Not being in the town or seeing the facilities is not ideal but hopefully I can still make the right decision.”
First baseman Mallory Peyton of Madisonville was having a banner junior year when Kentucky’s season was cancelled. She had a team-high 11 home runs in 24 games and had driven in 35 runs with a .379 batting average. She had even been hit by a pitch a team-high 10 times.
Before Autumn Humes decided to take advantage of a NCAA wavier to return for another senior season, Peyton was just one of three seniors scheduled to be on the team next year along with Lauren Johnson and Grace Baalman.
“I love this senior class, but there’s only three of them and all three of them are pretty quiet. The thing though is that Mallory Peyton is a great leader, and she’s developed into that,” Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson said.
“We do this 360-degree assessment and your peers assess each other, the coaches assess the players and the players assess the coaches, support staff, etc. One of the questions that was asked was who do you want in your foxhole and so a bunch of numbers came out and Mallory Peyton was actually the top vote-getter for who they would want in their foxhole.
“You don’t see her as the vocal, outgoing leader. You don’t see those things out of her, but she is definitely a tremendous leader, developed into it, somebody you can trust and someone you trust to do the right thing.”
Lawson especially likes one other trait Peyton has.
“She is incredibly honest. If you ask her something, you better be prepared,” the UK coach said. “She doesn’t sugarcoat anything. She doesn’t give you what you want to hear, she gives you what you need to hear, and so she has been a tremendous leader for us.”
What about Johnson, who is from Owensboro? She hit .323 i 24 games and knocked in 17 runs, scored 16 runs and walked 13 times. She also moved from the outfield to shortstop.
“Everyone really gets along with LJ and she is a very quiet leader, more one-on-one. When you walk into the lounge, LJ is always there and there are always players talking to LJ and so she’s got a really subtle way about her,” the UK coach said.
Quote of the Week: “You couldn’t ask for nothing better. If it wasn’t for me being the No. 1 pick, I wanted to go back to school just to win a national championship and get that atmosphere, excitement and how fun that was,” John Wall on his year at Kentucky during a podcast with NBA veterans Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.
Quote of the Week 2: “During this incredibly unsettling time, our focus as a community must remain on supporting each other in every way we possibly can,. Jenna and I are extremely grateful for the support we’ve received over the past 15 years from this incredible community. It is time for us and all who are able to support our community with actions that create certainty where uncertainty exists,” Kentucky women’s coach Matthew Mitchell on the $35,000 matching opportunity his family did with the Coronavirus Relief Fund of the Bluegrass.
Quote of the Week 3: “It’s a godsend. She can walk into an arena with 3,000 people and she’s going to light up the arena or the room. We were kind of lacking that in our older classes and she can fill that,” UK softball coach Rachel Lawson on the importance of Autumn Humes returning for another senior season.