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Hoops Recruiting Report
Tuesday, April 30, 2002

By Thad Mumau
Special Correspondent

'Hot Hand Luke' sold on Pirates and C-USA


East Carolinaís basketball team has gotten itself a "Hot Hand Luke."

That would be 6-foot-4, 185-pound Luke Mackay, the Australian sharpshooter who has signed with the Pirates after an earlier commitment to Oregon State.

"Iím really glad the way things have unfolded," said Mackay, who just completed his sophomore year at Lon Morris College. "They (things) definitely worked out for the best."

Mackay committed to Oregon State in January and was set to sign with the Beavers in the spring. But the Oregon State coaching staff left for New Mexico.

Luke then took a visit to Albuquerque, but decided to become a Pirate.

"I liked everything about East Carolina, especially the coaches," he said, "I was there for the Cincinnati game (Jan. 5) and really enjoyed it. The campus is nice, they just built a huge weight room, and I like the gym a lot.

"Conference USA is another selling point. Itís a great conference. You get to play some good competition. Cincinnati is always up there in the rankings. Marquette and Memphis have good teams ó and Rick Pitino is going to have Louisville up there."

Mackay also likes his chances of getting appreciable playing time.

"New Mexico has Ruben Douglass as the two guy, and heís going to play most of the minutes," he said. "East Carolina graduated three guards, so the position is open for competition. And all I wanted was the chance to compete for a spot.

"I followed East Carolina during the season, and at times, they would be right there in games. If they had hit a couple of outside shots, it would have made a difference. I feel I can help in that area."

Ditto, agreed one of the coaches who mentored Mackay last season.

"I feel he can, too," said Rick Dotson, a Lon Morris assistant and the son of Bearcatsí head coach Dale Dotson. "Luke is a great shooter. He is also a smart player who knows how to play the game. He is a really good rebounder for a guard and is hard-nosed and very aggressive and tough."

Mackay displayed some of that toughness by returning to action ahead of time this past season after breaking his right (shooting) wrist. He was starting and averaging around 15 points when he was injured in the fourth game. He underwent surgery and had a screw inserted in the wrist.

"We figured he was gone for the season," Dotson said, "but Luke worked hard, came back late and played."

In fact, Mackay played a big part in Lon Morrisí post-season success. He came off the bench to score 21 points in the Bearcatsí victory over Kilgore (TX) Junior College in the juco regional semifinals. In that game, he hit a pair of threes and sank 11 of 12 free throws.

"When Luke returned, we were 22-0 and not about to change anything," said Dotson. "He came in and played 10-12 minutes at first, then was playing about half of the game off the bench."

Mackay, who averaged 16.1 points per game as a freshman starter, finished his junior college career with an 88 percent free throw accuracy, while hitting over 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc.

"I donít just stand out there and shoot threes," he said. "I try to take the ball to the basket and get to the free throw line. Theyíre free, so I might as well make them. Iíve always worked hard at my foul shooting."

Dotson notes that Mackay's ball-hawking savvy and his deadly eye from the line can make a difference when the pressure is on.

"Luke is a great guy to have in the game when itís late and youíre trying to protect a lead," Dotson said. "I go back to his intelligence on the court, plus he handles the ball well and you know heís going to make his free throws.

"As a freshman, he was our starting point guard for about 10 games, and he did a real good job. Heís a solid two guard who is a good handler and passer. He has average quickness and is a good leaper. He isnít a great athlete, but is a solid athlete."

Speaking of solid, Mackay is more than solid as a student. He has a 3.7 grade-point average and scored 1,250 on the SAT.

So, why junior college?

"Well, I played my senior year at North Jackson High School in Alabama," said the native of Perth, Australia. "I averaged 28 points a game and made all-state, but nobody noticed. I was in a little town of about 2,000 people that was kind of off the radar.

"Then, I was a foreign exchange student, and some things werenít working out, so I went home. I wasnít really recruited. I didnít graduate and actually got my GED back home."

ECU was apparently in on the recruiting race for Mackay from the beginning, but the PAC-10 Beavers lost the edge with the coaching shuffle.

"I think Luke had a hard time choosing between East Carolina and Oregon State the first time," Dotson said, "so it has all worked out. I think he will really help East Carolina."

When the OSU situation changed, Mackay was glad the Pirates were still in a pursuing mood.

"I was really lucky they still had a scholarship and still wanted me," Mackay said. "Iím looking forward to getting to Greenville."

That will happen this summer. Mackay is going home to Australia for a while, but he plans to enroll for the second session of summer school.

"I donít need the classes," he said, "but Iím going in order to get acclimated and to play some basketball with the guys."

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02/23/2007 02:39:27 PM

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