This Bud’s for IU

Copied below is our story on Bud Mackey, which ran in Sunday’s paper. Hope you enjoy.

And Merry Christmas.


Chris Howell | Herald-Times

2008 Indiana basketball recruit Mackey hits it off with coach Sampson

by Chris Korman
Hoosier Times
December 24, 2006
GEORGETOWN, Ky. — Inside the Scott County High School gym, members of the basketball team don’t know quite how to feel.

This early December school day has ended there with a group of students playing against teachers in a charity basketball game.

Raising money for a good cause and seeing your math teacher miss a lay up and flail wildly into the padded wall behind the basket: what could be better?

During halftime, members of the varsity Cardinals, ranked No. 1 in the state of Kentucky, hold a dunk contest and the attention of the hundreds in attendance.

Bud Mackey’s smile fills his face as he prepares for his dunk. Two of his teammates huddle under the basket.

Mackey, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound junior guard who committed to Indiana in October, has more on his mind than making sure he can rise above the two boys in front of him, though. After the gym clears, Mackey will have to lead the Cardinals through one last practice before the team’s third game of the year. University Heights, the No. 15 team in the state, visits the next night.

Matt Walls, the lone senior starter for Scott County, won’t be at practice. He’s with family, mourning the death of his grandfather. They were close.

“It’s been hard on the whole team,” says head coach Billy Hicks. “They all feel it, I think.”

Mackey slams the ball easily, but a teammate does him one better and leaps over three guys to win the contest. As the varsity team comes off the floor they gather in a tight circle, standing close together to watch the rest of the charity game and await the beginning of practice.

The other recruit

Mackey’s commitment caught Indiana fans in the midst of their revelry over Eric Gordon’s defection from Illinois. Gordon, the shooting guard from North Central in Indianapolis, announced on Oct. 13 that he would instead sign with Indiana. Later that night, he showed up at Hoosier Hysteria — Indiana’s version of midnight madness — and became the center of attention on a night that marked the beginning of a new era for one of the most storied programs in college basketball history.

Unbeknownst to most, Bud Mackey, a prospect for the class of 2008, also attended Hoosier Hysteria. Not even the heartiest of recruiting gurus knew much about the reserved, baby-faced Mackey.

Sir Bud

Jonathan Mackey was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and lived there as a child. His mother worked night jobs, so he stayed with his grandmother. She had close ties to the Scott County area and eventually chose to move back there. Bud — the nickname was coined by his grandfather and stuck — now lives with an older male cousin in a house near his mother and grandmother.

“I needed the male role model,” he says, candidly, during a 20-minute interview before that practice in early December. “He’s showed me how to be responsible. My grades are better. I work harder, sir.”

Mackey answers everything with sir:

“Yes, sir, I do enjoy playing point guard.”

“No, sir, I didn’t mind moving over from shooting guard since it helped the team.”

“Sir, I’d just like to win a state title.”

This is Bud Mackey — people seemingly always refer to him by both first and last name because of the poetic and simple way the names seem to fit together, and fit him — at his most sincere.

“He’s just a good kid,” says Hicks, who picked up his 650th win in the first game of this season. “You say that about a lot of kids, but it’s resounding with Bud Mackey.”

In fact, Mackey himself said it was his personality as much as — or more so — than his diverse game that wowed Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson.

“Coach Sampson told me I was his guy,” Mackey told The Herald-Times on Oct. 19th, the day he committed. “He said he likes me more as a person than a player.”

From Kentucky to Indiana

Sampson and Mackey found mutual admiration for each other from the very beginning.

Scott County is a place where the phrase “summer ball” still means getting the high school team together and finding a league to play in. Mackey didn’t travel to the showcase AAU Tournaments until late in the year when the affluent teams began paying his way. Even then he didn’t get much exposure.

Sampson was limited to recruiting on campus after the NCAA sanctioned him for making unallowable phone calls to recruits while at Oklahoma.

So Indiana made a push to get recruits to Bloomington over the summer, and that’s where Sampson found Mackey.

Over the summer Hicks dropped a group of players, including Mackey, off for a one-day camp in Bloomington. Hicks wasn’t sure what to expect from Sampson, the new coach of the Hoosiers. Solely by reputation he knew Sampson as a tough coach who gravitated toward tough kids. He was anxious to hear what his players would think.

But first, Hicks had a lunch date with his wife in Brown County.

When he returned to Bloomington a few hours later, he would finally meet Sampson.

“He said to me, ‘I hope you don’t mind if I offer your guy a scholarship,’ ” Hicks recalls. “It was just that quick.”

Scott County is in the shadow of Lexington, and Kentucky basketball is worshipped. So it’s not as if Mackey hadn’t been around big-time basketball.

He just felt that Indiana fit. And six days after watching Hoosier Hysteria, he made it official, though he won’t be able to sign a letter of intent until November of 2007.

“I said, ‘You sure?’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir,’ ” Hicks says. “You know when Bud Mackey has made up his mind, he has made up his mind.”

Love of the game

Mackey wants to get onto the floor. He’s reaching down and wiping the palm of his hand on his shoe even though he’s sitting in an office. He does this often on the court, reflexively.

He should be out there leading drills, he knows, especially on a day like this.

When he finally gets out onto the floor the team looks weary. It’s not only emotionally drained but ready to play a real basketball game; after winning two games to start the season it has had eight days of intense practice. The last thing they want to do is run through skeleton offenses and inbounds plays.

Somehow, Mackey shines anyway.

What do you remember about Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley? The way they dominated? They way they made it look easy?

Or the way they always looked to be able to just have more fun: Johnson’s big smile and bright eyes, Jordan with his tongue out, Barkley relishing what he could accomplish with a body that shouldn’t.

Mackey has this quality. He enjoys basketball. Parts of his game need work for sure. But he has the passion.

When Mackey sets a pick against a ghost defender, he does it with the precision and vigor of a dancer in a music video. When he takes an inbounds pass under the net on a play designed to get him a basket plus one, he goes up strong.

‘Bud does it all’

Mackey moved to point guard at the beginning of this year because Hicks believes Walls is best used at shooting guard. Mackey is diverse, and open to anything.

“Bud does it all,” Hicks says, sitting in his small office while tying the laces on his big red Nikes. “What type of college player will he be? Depends on what they want him to be.”

The next night, Mackey scores 22 points. He hits just 8-of-24 shots from the field, but 4-of-9 3-pointers. He also has 10 rebounds. Scott County wins 76-61.

Hicks is not the type of coach to heap praise. Informed of his team being voted No. 1 by the rest of the coaches in the preseason poll, he told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he can think of 52 teams in the state that could beat the Cardinals.

Then, in its second game of the season, Scott County beat No. 2 Ballard 88-67.

Clearly, Hicks has high standards.

And on this day, early in December with Mackey already sure of where he’ll be playing in 2008, his motivation to sell his own player has certainly been lessened.

Still, he says, solemnly, “If there’s a better junior guard in the country, I’d like to see him.”


  1. It looks like IU is getting a classy gentleman who can also play bb. Character is very important to me, as you need something after you are done playing. I really enjoyed your article. For him to say sir, tells me a lot about this gentleman.

  2. I also enjoyed the article. I like Mr. Kormans writing style,a job well done. Bud Mackeys stats speak for themselves.The strength of his character will bring untold benefit to the Hoosiers. I for one will be very happy to have him in cream and crimson in 2008. Now if we could recruit a “Bud Mackey” type about 6′ 10″ or 11″ and 260lb…………! lol Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

  3. “It looks like IU is getting a classy gentleman who can also play bb. Character is very important to me, as you need something after you are done playing. I really enjoyed your article. For him to say sir, tells me a lot about this gentleman.”

    LOL DenniS.


  4. He was not arrested for dealing a controlled substance, but rather, possession are going to see a lot of character defaults in our future recruits under coach Sampson. Already we have a worse situation then doing a recreational drug.(Holman).Personally I think it is good to change the environment of these kids, I guarantee it will be good for the glory of old IU.

  5. I went to high school with Bud Mackey. He is a good guy and it came as a shock to me that he was caught up in this situation. Everyone is dissapointed that he threw away that chance to play D 1 ball and have many new doors open for him.

  6. i go to school wit Bud, he is a great guy and as many can tell one hell of an athlete. i totally agree that he was really stupid for bringing crack to school. like come on be smarter then that. i feel bad not for Bud cause that is his fault, but for his younger brothers and all the little kids here in Scott County that look up to him.


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