By LARRY VAUGHT
She grew up in Bell County, which has way more Kentucky fans than Louisville fans. Yet there was a time that Maci Morris thought about playing basketball for the Cardinals, not the Wildcats.
Morris eventually signed with Kentucky, not Louisville, and will be one of coach Matthew Mitchell’s key players her junior season because of her experience and proven playmaking ability.
Does she ever wonder what life might be like today if she had gone to Louisville instead of UK?
“Sometimes I do just because I thought I was going to for a little bit. Life would have been totally different with different opportunities and I would have been put in different situations. I am thankful I am where I am today,” she said.
She admits there are “not many” Louisville fans in Bell County but she believes fans at home would have supported her no matter where she went to play in college.
“I probably wouldn’t have as many people supporting me, but most of them would be proud of me regardless,” Morris said. “Growing up I always wanted to play college ball. I didn’t know until seventh or eighth grade year that I would be able to go to a Division I school and Louisville was the first school to offer me.
“Kentucky offered me my sophomore year. Once I got an offer from Kentucky, everybody said that is where you have to go. I enjoyed the recruiting process and was thankful for all the colleges that recruited me. I had a lot of support to go to Kentucky because that is who everybody is for back in Bell County.”
She scored 3,368 points — sixth best in state history — during her six-year career at Bell County and was named Miss Basketball. In two years at Kentucky under coach Matthew Mitchell, she has started all 66 games while averaging 10.2 points per game and hitting 102 3-pointers. She has 672 points, 176 rebounds, 83 assists, 39 steals and 27 blocked shots in her UK career.
Morris is from a family with a rich sports bloodline. She “loved” basketball when she was younger and her father, Lewis, taught her how to pitch.
“I loved to go out in the yard and just work on baseball with him and my brother. If in softball you could pitch overhand, I probably would have played softball. But where they don’t throw overhand for pitching, I could never get the urge to play,” she said.
She ran a “little track” at Bell County just to stay in shape and never considered soccer in high school because she was a junior before Bell started a team.
Morris freely admits life in Lexington is a “little bit different” from Bell County for a lot of reason. She worried the UK campus was too big.
“I’m getting used to it and it is not that big at all. I have a lot of friends here that I see. I see a lot of familiar faces here. It has gotten a lot easier. It is a lot better than it was my freshman year,” she said.
Her basketball success has made her a recognizable face on and off campus, something that sometimes frustrates her friends.
“My friends get mad — well, they don’t really get mad — but they are like, ‘Oh God, here comes somebody else wanting a picture,’ or something like that. They make jokes about ‘Everybody knows Maci Morris.’ But I don’t care. It is fun,” the outgoing Morris said. “I have gotten used to it. It’s not like I get swarmed by lot of people but me and teammates expect somebody to say something when we go out.”
She knows her “swarmed” doesn’t compare to what John Calipari’s players face from Kentucky fans and that makes life easier for her.
“We are able to do anything we want pretty much without anyone bothering us. We know people are always watching us and we are not going to do anything that will jeopardize the program. We do our normal activities without any trouble,” Morris said. “I enjoy the attention, but I know it’s nothing like what the men’s team faces. But that suits me just fine.”
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