UB women’s basketball head coach Felisha Legette-Jack always wanted to see her son play on a regular basis.
So when Maceo Jack received an offer to transfer to the UB’s men’s basketball team in January, mother and son couldn’t believe their good fortune.
“It’s the coolest thing ever,” Legette-Jack told The Spectrum Tuesday at Alumni Arena. “I said to him, ‘You go and evolve as a young man,’ and it took him all over the place. It [basketball] took me away from him, for four years I never saw him play on a consistent basis.”
Maceo averaged 24 points and seven rebounds per game at Williamsville North High School in Buffalo, before spending a postgraduate season at St. Thomas More in Connecticut, where he earned All-New England third-team honors.
He then accepted an offer to play basketball at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he played four seasons and averaged 9.1 points per game.
But during that time, mother and son were separated — something that weighed heavily on both of them.
Which is why the opportunity to return home and play at the same school his mother coaches at was something the Buffalo native couldn’t refuse.
“It’s awesome being home,” Maceo said. “Being able to drive 5-10 minutes from where I live and have dinner with my mom and dad every now and then, a couple times a week, it’s great. I was only able to see my mom once or twice a year when I was at GW, and my dad would make trips every now and then, but it’s nice to have the consistent ability to be able to come home.”
During his four years in D.C., Maceo only saw Felisha and his father, David, on a sporadic basis.
Legette-Jack insists her son’s commitment to UB was “all his doing,” and that he spent hours on Zoom calls with coaches across the country trying to find the best fit for himself.
Ultimately, Maceo felt comfortable with the Bulls after regular Zoom calls with the UB coaching staff.
“He did the work,” Legette-Jack said. “[UB men’s basketball head] cCoach Jim Whitesell and his staff, they did about five to six Zooms, an hour each, just to really articulate what was happening for their program and how they saw him fitting into the process.”
The moment Maceo told his parents he would play for UB, his life changed forever.
The emotions were overwhelming, even for Legette-Jack — who is notorious for her tough, hard-nosed personality and coaching style.
“We went upstairs and dad was all proud and I cried, but I didn’t show him because I’m a tough coach, too,” Legette-Jack said. “I can’t let him see me cry but it was really a moment where he did it himself and I’m grateful for that.”
Maceo was ineligible for competition last season after committing to UB in the middle of the 2020-21 campaign. He sat out the remainder of the year, where he spent his time learning the Bulls’ play style and personnel.
His time off gave him a new appreciation for the game and a newfound emphasis on the mental aspect of basketball, something he plans to carry with him into the 2021-22 season.
“Sitting out, it took me away from the game,” Maceo said. “I think taking myself away from the game was beneficial for me because it helped me get really cerebral with the game and learning the system and knowing which ways I could improve. I think that was a big part of my game I needed to improve on and I think it’s helped me exponentially as I’m going into this year.”
Maceo finished second in the Atlantic 10 Conference with 83 three-pointers made during the 2019-20 season, so he is expected to be a significant addition for the Bulls.
He also brings an 86% career average from the free-throw line to UB. Jack’s shooting from beyond the arc and at the charity stripe will undoubtedly help a Bulls team that finished 10th in the MAC with a 67.1% average from the line last season.
“Maceo is a great addition to us. [He’s] another big, strong body that we need,” senior point guard Ronaldo Segu said. “[He] can shoot, stretch out the floor, can get downhill, can absorb contact and get to the rim. Maceo is a real good addition.”
While it’s all smiles and warm embraces for the time being, Legette-Jack made her expectations clear to Maceo. She put the pressure on him to perform at UB.
Legette-Jack and her husband are right around the corner, and they’ll be blunt with their son if they have to be.
“This is the only year [he’ll be at UB]. I think he can play, so we’ll see if he can put that ball in the hole. Because if he doesn’t, he still has to come home and we will tell him the truth,” Legette-Jack said.
Maceo — who’s used to the tough love from his family — is embracing everything that comes with being the hometown kid. Even criticism from his mom.
“She’s definitely gonna get on me but it’s great,” Maceo said. “You see the tough side she has on the court but off the court, she’s a great mom. She shows that support, so it’s gonna be great to have that throughout the year.”
Anthony DeCicco is the Editor-in-Chief of The Spectrum. His words have appeared in outlets such as SLAM Magazine andSyracuse.com. In 2020, he was awarded First Prize for Sports Column Writing at the Society of Professional Journalists' Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. In his free time, he can be found watching ‘90s Knicks games and reading NFL Mock Drafts at 3 a.m.