To call her “Big Mac” would be too much, but at the same time, Mackenzie Daly is surely not “Little Mac” any more.
In the past year, Daly has grown at least three inches and stands at 5 feet 7 inches tall. Not only that, but the sophomore point guard’s game has grown, too.
Daly made the big leap onto the Mattituck High School girls varsity basketball team last season directly from the junior high school squad, skipping the junior varsity level entirely. She started one game last season against Shoreham-Wading River (“and I think it’s the worst game I ever played in my entire life”), but saw a good deal of playing time off the bench.
The girl who had been tabbed as Mattituck’s point guard of the future is already the team’s point guard of the present. Daly is one of three starting sophomores, along with forward Liz Dwyer and guard Jane DiGregorio, for the Tuckers, who picked up the first Suffolk County championship in their history.
Then again, Daly, Dwyer and DiGregorio have a history together. They were all teammates on a Catholic Youth Organization team that won a Long Island sixth-grade title.
“I thought she did a good job this year of getting stronger with the ball and driving and dishing well and knowing her role,” Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood said of Daly. “I think she thought a little too much last year, and now she’s being more reactive and being a ballplayer and doing the things that come natural for her.”
At the start of the season, Daly, regarded by Van Dood as the team’s best ballhandler, was viewed as a press-breaker who could help free up teammate Katie Hoeg. “She’s progressed into doing all the other things now like making steals and being a menace on defense,” said Van Dood.
Daly is growing as a player, making smarter passes and taking more shots.
“My physicality has been enhanced a lot,” she said. “I’m more aggressive, less timid, and I’m making better decisions with the ball. Being a point guard, you need to be patient and you need to be intelligent with the ball.”
With her slender frame, Daly can be disarming to opponents, who may not realize that beneath that baby face is a fierce competitor.
“She’s feisty, I got to tell you,” Van Dood said. “She gets mad when we pull her out [of games], and I want a player like that.”
Daly made an impressive showing in the Suffolk Class B final, scoring 10 points in the victory over Center Moriches. A fan favorite, she had a lot of family and friends cheering her on.
“She’s grown so much [from] not really shooting in the beginning to definitely becoming a key player on our team,” DiGregorio said, adding, “She’s definitely a solid player and you can always trust her with the ball and she usually pulls through.”
Perhaps the most peculiar aspect of Daly’s game is her jump shot. It follows a high arc, with no spin on it whatsoever.
“I’ve been trying to get a little bit more spin on it so I get those lucky bounces,” she said. “I really worked on my shot in the offseason because I need that arc shooting over bigger girls.”
Van Dood, who also coaches Mattituck’s junior high school team, said he knew he had a special player coming through the ranks when he first saw Daly play. He said: “All the other junior high coaches were like, ‘Where did that kid come from? She’s going to be dynamite.’ So, that’s why we got her up early, and she’s really done a good job.”
Daly and her friends have more basketball to play this season. The Tuckers (19-1) will face Islip (18-2) in the Suffolk Class A-B-C-D game on Wednesday at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. Six days later they will meet Carle Place (13-6) in the Long Island final at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.
That means more opportunity for growth for Daly, who may be in the market for a new nickname from her teammates.
She said, “They don’t have the license to call me Little Mac any more.”
Photo caption: Mattituck’s sophomore guard, Mackenzie Daly, advances the ball while being guarded by Pierson/Bridgehampton senior forward Erica Selyukova during the Suffolk County Class B-C-D game at Riverhead High School. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)