- The NCAA has been left without a player to fill the shoes of Zion Williamson.
- One game into his career, Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey proved he might be up to the task.
- What that means for his NBA prospects, though, remains a matter of debate.
Tyrese Maxey began the biggest game of his young career sitting on the bench. By the time it was over, the Kentucky guard had led his team to a crucial early-season victory. Not only that, but he staked his claim as college basketball’s latest in a long line of freshman superstars.
A Dominant Debut
Maxey scored a game-high 26 points in the second-ranked Wildcats’ 69-62 victory over top-ranked Michigan State. He attempted just 12 shots, drained three triples, and went 9-of-10 on free throws. That’s stellar efficiency from any player, let alone a freshman making his NCAA debut on the game’s brightest stage.
Maxey came up biggest when it mattered most, too. Following a three-point play with just over a minute remaining by Spartans senior Cassius Winston, the Wildcats’ double-digit halftime lead was suddenly cut to two. Winston is a popular preseason pick for National Player of the Year. Instead of calling a timeout to calm the nerves of his young team, Kentucky coach John Calipari put the ball in the hands of Maxey, confident the Dallas native would rise to the occasion.
It seemed like the wrong decision when Maxey found himself alone at the top of the floor, unable to shake his defender as the shot clock wound down. A few seconds later, after he drilled a pull-up 30-footer to put Kentucky up five, Maxey’s legend was officially born. The moment was coronated with a classic call from legendary broadcaster Dick Vitale.