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STATE FARM E'TOWN OPEN: UK legend Kyle Macy set to play at least two matches Saturday at Freeman Lake (07/05)

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By Nathaniel Bryan

With his pinpoint accuracy from the foul line and his deft shooting touch, it didn’t take long for Indiana native Kyle Macy to become a fan favorite for University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball fans.

After winning an NCAA Tournament title in 1978 and becoming the first Wildcat to be named consensus Southeastern Conference Player of the Year in 1980, Macy had more basketball success as an NBA player and college coach. He played seven seasons in the NBA – appearing in the league’s first 3-point contest in 1986 – and went on to win more than 100 games as the men’s head coach at Morehead State University.

Nowadays, the 56-year-old Macy is shooting for success and enjoying life on quite a different court.

Shortly after resigning as Morehead State’s coach in 2006, Macy accepted the role of boys’ tennis coach at Lexington Christian Academy – a title he still holds.

He is also in charge of the popular Ryan Holder junior summer tournament in Lexington and is a United States Professional Tennis Association pro at Idle Hour Country Club.

Macy will make his debut on the area tennis scene this weekend in the annual State Farm E’town Open. Considered the crown jewel of the fledgling Central Kentucky Tennis Series, the SFEO runs Saturday and Sunday on 22 courts in and around Elizabethtown: Freeman Lake Park (10 courts), University Drive Park (eight), and American Legion Park (four).

Macy said it shouldn’t have taken this long for him to play in the SFEO and he blames his men’s open doubles partner this weekend, Dr. Mike Eden, for that.

“He had talked to me about it for a few years and I thought we were going to play doubles last year, but then he threw me aside and played with Tyrone Sparks,” Macy said. “He cast me aside for a better partner.”

So just how does a Wildcat legend, former NBA player and a solid tennis player in his own right get kicked to the curb like that?

“Well, Mike will do anything to win,” Macy said with a laugh about his friend, who helps coach Lexington Christian. “But with Tyrone’s health this year, I got called in from the bullpen.”

As it turned out, the self-termed reliever has some serious game and knowledge when it comes to these courts.

Little-known tennis-related facts about Macy:

n While Macy was named Indiana Mr. Basketball in 1975, he played No. 2 doubles for his high school (Peru) and had a two-year unbeaten streak in the state’s Central Conference.

n Macy did not start his college career at Kentucky. He transferred from Purdue where he was also on the tennis team.

n He joined the USPTA in 2008 and earned Pro 1 certification the same year,

n In 2009, he attended both the World Conference on Tennis and the Southern Division convention.

n Macy’s daughter, Meredith, who has played in the SFEO before and is teaming up with her father this weekend for mixed doubles action, is one of the state’s top doubles players.

“When we travel, people will come up and they’re like, ‘Kyle Macy is your (tennis) coach?” Eden said of the responses he gets in Lexington Christian matches. “And I say, ‘Yes.’ But they always see him with basketball – and UK basketball primarily.”

Macy doesn’t disagree.

“I think the initial reaction is that he’s a basketball player or coach or whatever. That’s the first thing they relate to when it comes to name recognition,” Macy said.

Macy said he’s humbled people still hold on to his basketball memories like that.

“It’s nice that people remember me for something,” he said with a laugh. “But I enjoy tennis and I’ve played since I was young. I kind of got away from it for a bit when I was playing basketball and then professionally, but once I stopped playing, it (tennis) was a great opportunity to get in shape and be competitive and have some fun.”

How much fun he has this weekend remains to be seen. While he might be one of the most recognizable players on the court, he’s not one of the most experienced.

Eden, an Elizabethtown High School graduate who helped run city summer tournaments in the 1980s, said his playing history with Macy is limited to little more than Lexington Christian practices.

“We’re going to have fun,” Macy said. “I don’t know if we’ll win any matches or not, but we’ll have a good time. And he’s real competitive too, so I better have my ‘A’ game when I get there or he’ll go off on me.”

And the Macy-Macy entry into mixed doubles was a late addition. Macy said while he coaches Meredith, he rarely plays with her.

“I had to talk her into it. I had to twist her arm, but I don’t know if she really wants to,” Macy said. “We never play together. I’m trying to remind myself that this is just for fun. And I hope she reminds me of that, too.”

Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com