Mackey finds rung on Ga. Tech's ladder


ATLANTA -- Here's a question sure to win a beer or whatever libation in a bar: Name the five starters on Georgia Tech's Final Four club last year.

Three of those names are easy: Forward Dennis Scott, and guards Brian Oliver and Kenny Anderson.

They formed "Lethal Weapon 3." Two of those weapons, Scott and Oliver, are in the NBA now, with sophomore Anderson a rumored certainty to be there next year.

But if the names of the power forward and center from that team escape the memory, Malcolm Mackey understands. He and Johnny McNeil were the not-so-comic relief on the squad that ran to the national semifinals.

And even this year, with Scott, Oliver and McNeil all gone, Mackey, a 6-foot-11 sophomore, is still singing background to Anderson's lead vocals. But he says he doesn't mind at all.

"Kenny deserves all the credit he gets," said Mackey, who comes to Cole Field House tonight (7:30) when the Yellow Jackets take on Maryland. "He's our leader. The year he had last year was just exceptional and he's one of the best point guards to come through college in a long time. He's going to get his publicity and he deserves it."

And Mackey is an ignored man, but that's changing. He is the fulcrum of the Yellow Jackets' inside game, and has quietly carved out a niche as one of the best low-post players in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"Last year, I was a role player and this year my role has expanded a little bit," said Mackey, who averaged 7.2 points and a team-leading 7.2 rebounds last season. "So, I think I'm getting noticed. It just takes a little time to get in the spotlight."

At his current pace, Mackey might be getting into the spotlight sooner than expected, despite a recent scoring slump.

He is 14th in the ACC in scoring, averaging 15 points, which places him behind Anderson and guard Jon Barry for team leadership. Mackey is fourth in the league in field goal percentage at a crisp 52.6 percent.

Mackey, a native of Chattanooga, Tenn., is second to Clemson's Dale Davis in rebounds at 10.5, and third to Maryland's Cedric Lewis and Davis in blocks at 2.1 per game.

His improvement hasn't gone unnoticed by ACC observers.

"He's really improved; his defense and scoring are up and he's really played well," said Les Robinson, head coach at North Carolina State. "He's just so strong. Last year, he was in the shadow of NBA players. Now, he's coming into his own."

"He's only a sophomore," said Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins. "Malcolm's come a long way. I think Malcolm's day in the sun will come, when he's a junior and a senior . . . He wants to make it to the next level, someday. I think more importantly than that, he wants to win."

Mackey, whose booming voice is an interesting juxtaposition to his baby face, does indeed want to win. To that end, he lifted weights and worked on his game over the summer, becoming a member of the South team at the Olympic Festival.

"The real key of it is that I'm attacking the basket more. I play more aggressively," said Mackey.

"Last year, I was just coming out of high school and I was just more tentative and shied away from contact. This year, I like to be in there in the middle of it."

Mackey, a third-team All-America choice in high school by Parade magazine, says he has been fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, given his youth.

"I'm only a sophomore and that is the good thing about it," he said. "I have two more years after this one. I'm in the process of trying to get a name for myself right now.

"The next year, people will look at me and I'll still have another year after that. The key is that I'm really young. It's just like a ladder. You take it one step at a time.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad