Aye, she’s a Scot: MC freshman making immediate impact
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (email@example.com)
She may not have the last name to inspire thoughts of blue face paint, splendid tartans and cries of “Freedom!” but Mackenzie Puckett has the first name that emphasizes just how natural fit the freshman is for the Scots of Maryville College.
The Franklin product has made the most immediate impact from the crop of newcomers. Despite a size at 5-foot, 9-inches that is too small for a true post in the USA South Athletic Conference and too tall for a guard, Puckett has made it work for her in a Goldielock-esque just right.
“I would imagine for an opponent it’s a match up issue, you put a guard on her and she can go inside or go over them and if you put a post on her she can step back or drive by people,” MC head women’s coach Darrin Travillian.
The Scots’ last three games Puckett has put up 20, 16 and 10 points for Maryville coming off the bench as part of 10-deep rotation Travillian has made his staple in USAC play. That combination earned Puckett her fourth rookie of the week honors from the conference office Monday.
The freshman’s success comes as no surprise to her teammates, especially senior Janel Menard.
“Coming into the year coach had told me she was a really good recruit coming in, we saw her playing in open gym and we could tell she could play,” Menard told The Daily Times. “What she’s done so far this season, I actually expected, I really have. She’s obviously an athlete and a player and I wouldn’t expect anything less than what she’s bringing. I’m still proud of her as a freshman to come in and do what she’s doing in the games.”
“If a post guards her we know she can take them on the dribble but she has so many different moves in the posts, she’s so versatile she can play almost place on the floor.”
Averaging 10 points per game, Puckett has raised the average for conference games and doing it in the limited minutes imposed by the deep rotation — something the team feels it needs for a USAC schedule that can stack five games over 10 days like the stretch Maryville just completed. All the team’s leading scorers average just over 20 minutes of floor time in conference play at the midway point.
While her scoring potential has made her a valuable addition, the defense and energy have made Puckett invaluable in lots of ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
“My main focus has to be get a rebound and makes the defensive stops that has to be it or I won’t be able to produce. Coach asks me before every game what my are my main focus, rebound, don’t settle and play hard. If I play good defense, the offense will come,” Puckett said. “I just have to have the mindset of scoring when I do that. It’s hard going against bigger posts because I played guard in high school most of the time but if I play against someone bigger I try use my quickness and if I’m matched up against a guard I try to use my size.”
And while the numbers individually on defense aren’t eye popping the way every category has a good number make the whole more than the sum. Steals on denied entry passes to the post and blocks on the guard unfortunate enough to think they can take her to the hoop are just as frustrating to opponents as the knack around the net.
“The thing about Mackenzie, for anybody that watches her, is she knows how to put the ball in the hole and can do it a variety of ways. She can shoot from the perimeter, she can get inside and has the length to shoot over people and to post,” Travillian said. “We’re asking her to play three positions right now and she brings a lot of versatility to an already talented group and she’s found a way to fit in and carve out her own role.”
And that was the trickiest part for Maryville — adding a new piece to a puzzle that had already rounded the edges with seasons of playing together. Once again, Puckett made the disadvantage work for her.
“I sort of watched and learned. In the beginning coach always wanted me to guard Janel and Keira (Payne) and to build my defense but also to try and score on them,” the freshman said. “Through that I’ve watched and learned how they play and tried to fit in as best I can and they’ve been great about adapting to me.”
The resulting chemistry has made for an even better on-court formula for the Scots, who sit atop the standings in their new conference home and have been knocking on the door to reach the Top 25 all month. Where things could have prickly, they’re working smoothly so far.
“I think that’s as much a credit to the team’s maturity,” Travillian said.
“Mackenzie has taken a lot of pressure off the starting five,” Menard added, “and that’s very good for us as a team.”