Growing up in suburban Toronto, Kimbal Mackenzie used to dream about “playing basketball in the states for college.” The 6-foot-1, 185-pound combo guard thought the best way to make that happen was to leave Canada for high school and enroll at a basketball powerhouse somewhere in the U.S.
Two years after enrolling at John Carroll, Mackenzie’s plan has come to fruition. The second-team Baltimore Sun All-Metro selection committed to Bucknell on Friday, picking the Bison over offers from Loyola, Siena and UMBC.
“It feels good,” Mackenzie said Friday. “I know Bucknell’s a great situation for me. It feels good to get an early commitment out of the way and focus on the upcoming season.”
Mackenzie – who plays AAU for the Ontario-based CIA Bounce program best known for producing Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Ennis and several others – was an impact player for John Carroll from Day One. John Carroll coach Tony Martin was immediately struck by Mackenzie’s maturity.
“He’s got Peyton Manning-type qualities in terms of leadership,” Martin said. “He shows tremendous versatility and leadership on the court. He can put the ball in the basket. Prior to his nose being broken his sophomore year, he was shooting at a 50 percent clip from 3-point range. Kimbal can make shots everywhere on the court, including from deep.”
As a junior, Mackenzie averaged around 16 points, four rebounds and three assists, earning All-Baltimore Catholic League and All-MIAA A Conference first-team recognition. Mackenzie said the Bucknell coaching staff discovered him during his sophomore year, but they picked up their pursuit of him this past season.
“I knew a little bit about them, but after visiting the school and doing some research, I realized it was a very strong basketball program [and a university with] very good academics. It’s not too far from home for me,” said Mackenzie, noting that Bucknell is about a five- or six-hour drive from Toronto. “All of those things definitely contributed. The coaching staff was really nice. They like to go about their business. The campus was really nice, nice facilities. Nothing I can really complain about.”
Mackenzie said he expects to play the 1 and the 2 for the Bison. He said the coaches like his shooting and his intangibles, and before enrolling he plans to focus on improving as a defender.
Martin, meanwhile, thinks Mackenzie could follow a similar trajectory to that of two other John Carroll stars: Loyola forward Jarred Jones and UMBC guard Rodney Elliott, the reigning America East Rookie of the Year.
“Sort of like our other recent guys, he was under-recruited and underappreciated,” Martin said. “[But] I think Kimbal has a chance to be a fantastic player in the Patriot League. It’s a perfect fit for him. Those that have watched him play know that he plays the right way. I see Kimbal as someone who could be All-Patriot League when it’s all said and done.”