College Basketball

SWEET HOMECOMING

Former Taylor standout Macy Ray returns to Katy for Southland Conference tournament

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 3/11/20

The last time Macy Ray stepped onto a basketball court in Katy, she was drilling college-distance 3-pointers for Taylor High and coach Blair Ary.

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College Basketball

SWEET HOMECOMING

Former Taylor standout Macy Ray returns to Katy for Southland Conference tournament

Posted

The last time Macy Ray stepped onto a basketball court in Katy, she was drilling college-distance 3-pointers for Taylor High and coach Blair Ary.

The next time she does, however, Ray will be playing for Incarnate Word, with an NCAA tournament berth on the line.

Ray, a 5-foot-7 sophomore combo guard, and the Cardinals open the Southland Conference tournament on Thursday, March 12, at the Merrell Center. Incarnate Word, the No. 7 seed, plays No. 6 seed Nicholls State at 1:30 p.m. The winner of the tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Katy native is excited for the chance to do so in front of family and friends. This week, the Cardinals held practice at Taylor High.

“I think it’s cool I went off to play Division I basketball and now we get the chance to compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament in my hometown,” Ray said. “It’s really exciting.”

Ray, a four-year varsity letterman for Taylor and first-team all-region player her junior and senior seasons, is having a breakout season for Incarnate Word, averaging 7.9 points and leading the team in 3-pointers made with 51.

Ray ranks second on the team in points per game, minutes per game (32.6) and assists per game (1.8). She is coming off a career-best outing against Abilene Christian on March 8 in which she scored a career-high 23 points on 7-of-14 3-point shooting to go with only one turnover in 43 minutes.

“I probably have to get on her more often than not about not shooting,” said Cardinals coach Jeff Dow, who is in his first year at the helm. “She doesn’t take bad shots. I have to remind her she’s one of our premier 3-point shooters: ‘We run the plays we run in part that, when we have open looks from 3, you have to shoot it.’ The confidence in her shooting and her ballhandling has really improved throughout the season.”

It has been a remarkable turnaround season for Incarnate Word, which is 14-15 and a conference tournament postseason qualifier after going 5-24 last season. The Cardinals are enjoying their most successful season since becoming a NCAA Division I program in 2013-14.

Incarnate Word was picked to finish last (13th) in the conference in a preseason poll by league coaches. Instead, the Cardinals have earned first-time wins over Stephen F. Austin and Lamar, and first-time road wins over Abilene Christian and Sam Houston State.

The Cardinals have beaten three teams in the conference who were in first place at the time they played.

“We’ve seen what we can do,” Ray said. “We’re bringing that confidence knowing that we’re the team to beat. We can compete with all those big-name schools and show off all the hard work that’s led up to this.”

Ray has been an integral part of the Cardinals’ rise, which comes as no surprise to Ary, who also played at Incarnate Word and whose former college coach, Angela Lawson, is now a senior associate director of athletics at the school.

Most see Ray as the precociously talented underclassman who can light it up from 3-point range at a moment’s notice. Ary sees the young girl from years ago who would run onto the court at halftime of her older brother Corbin’s varsity basketball tournament games to shoot around, using every ounce of power in her small body to knock in long-range shots.

“There was this little kid on the floor, shooting at every halftime and between the games of a tournament we were at,” said Ary, who was coaching at Clear Brook at the time. “We were like, ‘Get off the floor, kid!’ She was a fourth or fifth-grade kid, shooting and knocking them down. Like, what in the world? But in all honesty, I remember telling my assistant that I wanted to coach a kid like that.”

Ary got her wish. She got to Taylor not long after, and Ray soon followed. In 2014, making her first varsity start in her first game as a freshman, Ray scored 28 points and made 68 percent of her 3s against perennial area power Cypress Ranch.

That was the beginning of a special player. As a senior, Ray averaged 12.7 points, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game, hitting 36 percent of her 3s.

“You can see the same kid now in college, taking the same shots she’d take with us, almost standing out of bounds, shooting 3s,” Ary said. “She still hustles. She’s still making the smart play. She’s still working so hard. It’s just awesome to see her confidence level at the college level.”

Ray is the youngest of four children. Her mother, Vickie, and Corbin played basketball at Texas Tech. Her sister Lexie played at Collin County Junior College.

“My brother is 10 years older than me and he put a ball in my hands before I could even walk,” Ray said. “I’ve been playing since I took my first steps. It’s always been my passion.”

Ray is a gym rat, simply because she hates getting beat. At anything.

Ary doesn’t remember Ray ever losing a conditioning sprint drill at Taylor. She does remember taking many late evening calls from Taylor custodians; Ray had somehow found her way into the school and to the gym. Again.

“She will kill herself to beat someone,” Ary said. “I feel really bad for her husband. She’s getting married soon, and I’m just like, ‘Sorry, I don’t know what to tell you, dude.’ She just has that inner drive.”

Ray said she is eager to always prove to her coach, be it Ary in high school or Dow now, that she can be someone to rely upon. She commits to establishing herself as a leader in practices. That carries over into games.

It’s part of the reason she became a fulltime starter 10 games into her freshman season.

“No matter what team I’ve played for, be it AAU, Coach Ary at Taylor, or here, I’ve always just tried to bring to practice the way I play,” Ray said. “The energy, the competitiveness, an overall determination to beat people. All of that has transitioned to this level to give me playing time and the opportunity I have now.”

Dow commends Ray for her role in integrating his no-nonsense culture. The Cardinals are a defensive-oriented team on the court and demand accountability on and off it. Dow said Ray has “helped a ton” ever since meeting her for the first time when he took the job last April.

“We’ve leaned heavily for her,” Dow said, “and for good reason.”

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