In his debut professional basketball season, Willis Mackey Jr. became the Spanish Eurobasket Association (EBA) Player of the Year.
The Grand Bahama native, who is currently riding out the COVID-19 pandemic in Salamanca, Spain, announced the news via his video blog (Vlog) posted on Youtube on May 12, 2020. While filming a video concerning a different matter, Mackey Jr. received the news from his agent through a text message.
Instantly, the 6´8´´ power forward for the Aquimisa Carbajosa basketball club was overcome with emotion and gratitude. He also revealed that he won other top awards such as, Forward of the Year, Import Player of the Year and was named to the league’s First Team, which highlights five of the top players at each position (point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center).
“It’s such an honor, man,” he said with a huge smile on his face.
“I couldn’t do (it) without my teammates. Before every game I say a prayer, and I just ask for strength and stamina, and, regardless of what’s going on in the game that I find a way to make the right play.”
He continued: “I think I did that a lot of times because I was not only scoring and I always say it’s not about scoring. I really could have done more of that if I had a selfish attitude. But I realized that what matters most is the success of the team. I could not have done this without those guys on my side. I played with some excellent people this season that will probably be my friends forever.”
In his first year as a pro, Mackey Jr. averaged 16.4 points per game on 58.4 percent shooting from the field, and shot an average of 42.6 percent from the three-point arch. The former Northwestern Ohio University Racer, also pulled down 7.6 rebounds, and finished the season with an average of 1.2 blocks per game.
The Spanish basketball standout shared that he has been playing organized basketball for six years now, and, said the accomplishments were something he simply didn’t expect.
“It’s just humbling. I had so much love, so much support around me; my family and some of my closest friends who have always been so supportive of me and friends of the past that have helped me get to where I am today.
“I’m not saying I’m where I want to be, but this achievement is just a way of showing me that I’m doing the right things to get where I want to be. It’s a reminder that I’m on the right path.
“A lot of times you question what’s going on in your life and if this is the right path you should be taking. You question things all the time because we’re humans. But this is just a way of saying I made the right choice. You put your head down; you don’t worry about anyone else.
“When you get on the court, you don’t have to be the loudest on the court; let your game speak for itself.
“Thank you to everyone that helped me get here. Thank you to Eurobasket for the awards, thanks to my coach, the organization for being so good to me and helping me and being so great to me and making my first pro season a success and making me feel comfortable and making me feel at home although I’m miles away from home,” he expressed near the end of the video.
According to the 2019-2020 Player of the Year, the club went a perfect 20-0 and was on pace to finish the season undefeated with just six games left to play before the league officially shut down in the wake of the pandemic.
The Bahamian has been on lockdown in Spain since March, unable to get home. That prompted him to share updates on his status and daily living through his social media platform.
Spain is currently third in the world in terms of COVID-19 cases (228,691) and COVID-19 related deaths (27,104) as of 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 13. When The Freeport News reached out to Mackey Jr., he disclosed that it has been difficult given the circumstances but has received daily encouragement from his friends and family here at home.
“It’s been tough, honestly. It’s not easy being so far away from home and stuck in a foreign country throughout all of this going on with Spain being number three in the world in cases and deaths. It’s been hard, and I’ve been on lockdown since March 10, so this is week nine of our lockdown.
“It’s been hard. I can’t lie, but I’m getting through it with the help of my loved ones and friends of course. My club, Aquimisa Carbajosa, is taking really good care of me and the other teammates who are here also. I hope to come home soon because I heard rumors that the London Commission, run by (Ellison) Greenslade, is trying to organize a way for Bahamians in Europe to get home through the United Kingdom. But, we will see how that goes.”
Speaking more on his adjustment to playing overseas, the GB native shared that it was not hard at all. However, he disclosed that it took him a while to adapt to the league’s physicality.
“It wasn’t so hard for me because my team played a similar motion offense as my college team. The biggest difficulty for me was defense, because it’s much more physical as you could imagine. But, I got used to it as time went along. It’s much more physical than college or than the regular game I’m used to.”
Mackey Jr. shared that this milestone has motivated him to be an outlet for younger athletes. He also concluded his comments encouraging residents at home to continue taking the pandemic seriously.
“The message I have for my supporters at home is that during this time I’ve seen some of the worst times here in Spain; so many deaths and it’s so unfortunate. I just wish that everyone at home would just make sure they are taking the proper precautions so that we can finish this off together.
“For anyone, parents, children, boys or girls, anyone interested in basketball at the pro level, feel free to reach out to me on social media or, however. I’m here to help as much as I can because I’m blessed to be in this position and I want to be an example for them.”