The candidates for the Mattituck High School girls basketball team were gathered in a circle after tryouts, listening with hope as coach Steve Van Dood read off the list of players who had made the varsity team. Among those waiting and hoping was Mackenzie Daly, a freshman point guard who had played junior high school basketball last season.
Daly did not have to wait long, though, to hear what she wanted to hear. As Daly recalls, she believes hers was the first name Van Dood read out.
Hearing her name announced, Daly said, “was mostly relief, but I was really excited to experience a new thing and challenge myself as a player and get better.”
Being selected to a varsity team is a nice honor, but it is especially nice for a freshman who skipped the junior varsity level.
Daly catches your eye when she walks on the court. Often she is the shortest and smallest player on the floor. Her slight frame and baby face makes her look younger than her years. She wears uniform No. 1, and one wonders if that is the only number that will fit her.
Asked how tall she is, Daly said she is 5 foot 4, but hastened to add, “I think that might be a stretch.”
Her nickname is “Mac.” Sometimes her teammates call her “Big Mac.” “Little Mac” would be more fitting.
Despite her lack of size, Daly has merited her place on the team. Van Dood rated her among the top 10 players in the tryouts.
Van Dood, who also coached Daly when she played for the junior high school team, said she has good dribbling ability and a nice jump shot.
Daly said she is a playmaker. “I look to assist more than score,” she said.
“She wants to play,” Van Dood said. “That’s what I love about her. She won’t miss a practice. … She’s the first girl in the gym. She’s always shooting. She’s smart, so she listens, and she’s getting better and better.”
Daly remembers what it felt like to participate in her first varsity scrimmage against Bishop McGann-Mercy. “I was very nervous,” she said. “Then, once I got on the court I kind of just stopped being nervous and the excitement took over.”
Making the jump from junior high to varsity ball is a big one for Daly, who has found that a greater emphasis is placed on winning at the varsity level.
Daly has gotten playing time as a reserve off the bench. She played in more than half of Mattituck’s first 12 games.
Van Dood has urged Daly to shoot more, release her shots quickly and keep her head up when she has the ball in her hands. She knows she has work to do. “I definitely need to improve with strength and speed,” she said, “but I’m going to get there eventually.”
Van Dood said, “We gave her a trial by fire and she went out there and had some good moments, and other times she showed her age.” He continued: “She knew what she was getting into because I worked with her hard last year and she bought in. She liked the system that we had and you could see it, when we talked varsity, she wanted to be a part of that team. It’s a dream come true for her.”
Daly already has a championship on her short résumé. She played alongside fellow freshman Liz Dwyer on a Catholic Youth Organization team that won a Long Island sixth-grade title.
Dwyer said she advised Daly to be ready for the pressure she will face as a varsity player.
“She’s so little and fast,” Dwyer said. “She’s doing good. It’s her first varsity year so she’s a little timid to shoot it, but she’s a good shooter so she should keep shooting.”
Daly and Dwyer, along with freshmen Alex Beebe and Chelsea Marlborough, and sophomore Alya Ayoub, will be around for a while.
Van Dood said he would like to move his current starting point guard, junior Katie Hoeg, off the ball. It sounds as if Daly has an opportunity to be the No. 1 point guard in the future.
That would suit Daly just fine. She said, “I’m looking forward to a great varsity career.”