University of Kansas

‘Hard to guard’ freshman guard Issac McBride shows new KU teammates he can score

Known as a prolific scorer at Arkansas Baptist Prep, where he helped the Eagles snare three of four state basketball titles, Issac “Mackey” McBride has lived up to his reputation during his first taste of summer workouts at Kansas.

“His shooting ability … I feel he can get off his shot almost on anybody,” KU junior guard Marcus Garrett said of the 6-foot-1, 185-pound freshman combo guard, who averaged 28.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists a game in 2018-19 for the Little Rock, Arkansas high school. “He has a quick release. He jumps high,” the 6-foot-5 Garrett added.

McBride, Arkansas’ 2019 Gatorade High School Player of the Year who chose KU over Auburn and Virginia in recruiting, scored a career-high 58 points in a win over Russellville last season. That surpassed the 46 points he scored in a game his junior campaign.

McBride had 30 or more points in 16 games during his senior season, hitting at least one three in 33 of 34 games.

“He’s a tough guard,” said 6-foot-5 KU sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji, who has tried to help McBride acclimate himself to KU, noting, “I’m always here to help him. He kind of reminds me a little bit of Devon (Dotson, sophomore point guard), how he gets downhill. He can shoot it (from deep) too. He has good explosion on his shots. He can jump really high which is hard to defend. He’s quick off the bounce. I think that’s one of his special traits,” Agbaji added.

McBride, who coach Bill Self says “can jump up and make a shot wherever he is on the court,” cashed 47.5 percent of his threes last season at Arkansas Baptist Prep. It should be noted the high school three-point line is 19-feet 9 inches from the goal. The college three-point line has just been moved to the international distance of 22-1 3/4 — back from last year’s distance of 20-9.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s been an adjustment,” McBride said of the new three-point line. He, Agbaji and Garrett spoke to the media Thursday while working Brett Ballard’s Washburn University basketball camp for youths.

“Once we get in scrimmages and game-play … with the flow of the game it will feel pretty natural. Once you play in the game you don’t even recognize it. You just shoot,” McBride added.

Of his shooting and ability to score, he said: “If I get hot, I feel like I can keep going and continue for stretches. That’s something I want to add to the team, not just shooting, (but) being able to have another guard that can handle it and make right decisions off of pick and rolls, being able to score all-around. Also one thing I’d like to continue to work on besides the three-ball is the speed of the game and the defensive part of it, just trying to get better overall in everything.”

He describes himself as not a true 1 or 2, but “a bigger guard, able to shoot off the dribble really well, someone who wants to be out there and is a competitor and tries to compete to the best of his ability, somebody who is team oriented, thinks of the team first. If someone is hot, get them the ball, if someone is discouraged, try to encourage them to be able to play to the best of their ability.”

McBride said his new coach, Self, “told me to be myself, told me to do what I’m comfortable doing, just come in and be who I am as a player. What he takes as flaws, he’ll tell me what I need to work on there. What he says are strengths … he wants me to continue to work on those so those can really shine bright.”

In high school, McBride played both point guard and shooting guard. It’s been said at KU the positions are interchangeable.

“I alternated back and forth,” McBride said, noting, “basketball is basketball once you get out there. At the 1 you are getting more people involved but also you have to be a scoring threat and at the 2 you just have to make sure you are giving your defender all type of chaos with decisions and shots you take and shots you may have.”

McBride — he told he is considering majoring in broadcast journalism at KU — said it’s OK to refer to him either by his nickname, Mackey, or birth name, Issac. He said his great grandfather’s name was Mackey.

“Back home, a lot of people call me Mackey, like close friends and family. Coach Self … I guess he got it from one of my teachers or my parents or whatever,” McBride explained. “Coach Self just wanted to make me comfortable. He does a great job of recruiting and that was one thing that made me comfortable was him calling me by my nickname.

“So you can call me Issac. You can call me Mackey. It doesn’t matter. All I’m here to do is get a great education and try to produce on the floor as much as I can. Whatever you want to call me, whatever feels comfortable, go ahead. It’s open,” he added smiling.

Asked how he received the nickname, he stated: “When I was younger I couldn’t pronounce it,” he said of his great grandfather’s name, “because I didn’t have any teeth. I would say, ‘Mackey, Mackey,’ and everyone started calling me that. It kind of kept on. People go different ways with it. Around my school they call me ‘Mack’ or “Mac and Cheese’ some weird stuff like that. I’ve gotten used to it. There’s a lot of stuff you can do with that nickname.”

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