Recruiting has certainly been strange in the past few months hasnt it? Because of Billy Clyde’s “wide net” philosophy, we learn of one player’s name one day, another the next and a third “surprise JUCO big man” the next. Unless you have a program, it is hard to keep up and no one can really claim to know where the staff is headed next. However of all the names that have popped up on the UK radar, none is more head-turning than Bud Mackey. You remember Bud Mackey right? The talented kid from Scott County that you watched help his team to a state title and thought to yourself, “boy we gotta have that kid at UK!” Of course Mackey spurned UK’s advances (in part because of the lag time of a coaching change) and ended up following the man who truly “discovered” Mackey on the national level, Kelvin Sampson, at Indiana. Rumors persisted after the commitment that he might still consider UK and he had been known to play pickup games with the guys on the team. But Mackey insisted he was IU bound and left UK fans wondering if the next Chris Lofton was once again leaving the state.
But then came one of the more shocking incidents I can ever remember in covering recruiting. Mackey was arrested at his school with crack cocaine and later charged with trafficking in a controlled substance, a charge that got him kicked off of Scott County’s team and led to his scholarship being pulled by Indiana. From out of nowhere, a kid whose future looked so promising, seemed to see his life crumble before him in a manner that no one could have forseen. Mackey disappeared off the face of the planet, with rumors that he was enrolling in schools ranging from Tennessee to Georgia later being found to be incorrect. One wondered what would happen to Mackey and if he would ever be heard from again….so much talent, seemingly gone down the drain.
But then came news that only the internet world could create. On Bud Mackey’s Myspace page, it was posted that he was coming to Kentucky and the message boards lit up. Mackey’s page (assuming of course it is him, which is always touch and go) has multiple references to UK and what he will do in Lexington next year, making folks wonder if the young man who is still up for crack cocaine charges could end up in Blue and White. Debates have raged on whether Mackey should be considered by the school and to what extent a player that was deemed to be too risky by the sketchy Kelvin Sampson can be given another shot at his home state school. There is no doubt he has the talent, and no one who looks at next year’s roster could challenge the fact that the Cats could use him, but the question remains: Should Kentucky take a chance on Mackey?
First a disclaimer. None of us REALLY know what is going on with Mackey’s case. As with all criminal proceedings, the devil is often in the details and when discussing the situation, we all come to it with a degree of ignorance. Early reports suggested that Mackey smelled of marijuana at school and thus was searched, when the crack rocks were found. He has been charged with possession and trafficing, thanks to his alleged statement to the police that he was holding it for someone else. Those charges are still pending and he still faces a potential jail sentence for the charge. It can likely be assumed that Mackey will get no answer from UK or any other school until those charges have been resolved, and I am unaware as to whether that date has been finally set. But this isnt a little deal. Mackey faces jail time and until the criminal proceeding has been worked out, UK will almost certainly not bite.
But what if Mackey ends up doing no jail time? Do you let him on UK’s team then? Many UK fans are championing the view that “hey, everyone makes mistakes, so why not?” While I agree with that view in principle (after all I am a bit of a bleeding heart), I have to wonder how much of that notion is believed solely because Mackey can play basketball. If you believe that people should be given second chances that is fine, but you have to believe that across the board. Mackey does not deserve a greater second chance than any young man who is found with drugs for the first time, simply because he is great at basketball. I would hope that those clamoring for mercy for Mackey and his potential spot on UK’s basketball team, also believe that other young men and women should be given second chances and that those on other college basketball teams (including our rivals) were deserving of their second chances for much less serious crimes. If they do, then that is fine….if they dont then that is hypocrisy.
The fact is that letting Bud Mackey on the team opens UK up to a lot of criticism. The University will face fire from the media, internal pressure from those in the University and the taunts of fans and coaches from other teams for the decision. This isnt a simply traffic violation or even a marijuana possession charge. This is CRACK….a serious drug on SCHOOL property. Young men all over this country are getting locked up for long amounts of time for this same charge. Allowing one of those lucky enough to escape jail time (if he indeed does) on your basketball team is quite a statement. I can only imagine what the fan bases of opposing teams will chant at Kentucky over Mackey’s four years and Cats’ fans ability to level charges that other teams (like UT and UL football) are composed only of “thugs” will be severely dampened when one of the best basketball players on UK’s team was arrested for crack possession. Whether for it or against it, the realization needs to be understood…take Mackey, and to much of the country we are simply the same as Memphis….now and for the near future.
I like Bud Mackey a great deal on the court and have had positive interactions with him off the court. I was shocked when the news came out because I have always considered Bud a likeable kid. But this is serious business. We dont know for sure if Kentucky is interested in Mackey. In fact, the only evidence we have is simply a myspace posting that could be incorrect or misinterpreted. But either way, that same posting has begun a debate on whether Mackey is the type of kid that should be playing for UK. I take no position on the debate as to what type of kid Mackey is and whether UK has people of similar character on its team. I dont know Mackey well and I am sure that 99% of those engaged in the debate dont know him at all. However what type of person Mackey may be is not the issue. The issue is whether Kentucky wants to be the type of basketball program that takes kids in his position on the team because they are great at dribbling a basketball. I dont think that traditionally that is the type of program UK has been and I dont think it should be that type of program now. Bud Mackey may very well deserve a second chance….I tend to believe most people in life do. He may very well even deserve to have a college give him the opportunity to go play basketball and straighten out his life. However even though he may be a great basketball talent, Kentucky doesnt have to be, and in my view shouldnt be, that college.