Maci Morris succeeds at life and basketball

Life With Lukas | by Lukas Witt | 11 years old

Do you know Maci Morris? Let me give you a sneak peek, Morris was named after Kentucky basketball great Kyle Macy and even wore his #4 during her career at Kentucky. Morris was born in Hazard, Kentucky and played high school basketball at Bell County where she joined the 3000 point club, was ranked nationally in the top 50 (espnW) and did I mention she was named Ms. Kentucky Basketball in 2015 before signing to play for Matthew Mitchell at the University of Kentucky. Her accomplishments continued when she got to Kentucky, she ranks 6th all-time in scoring with 1,692 points, 2nd in all-time 3-pointers made with 252 and ranks 1st in 3-point field goal percentage of 41.1%.

After finishing a 4 year career at the University of Kentucky in 2019 Morris signed a pro contract with USE Scotti Empoli to continue her basketball career in Italy. She was having a solid first season through 16 games and was averaging 31.6 mpg, shooting 40.4% from the 3, 5.5 ppg, 2.3 ast, and 4.9 reb.

Her first season was cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak and headed back home after being under a quarantines lock-down in Italy. I got the chance to ask her a few questions about basketball and life, check out our Q&A below.

me and Maci at Memorial Coliseum and basketball camp

Me:    What do you miss most about college basketball?

Maci: I miss playing with some of my best friends and playing in front of BBN. There’s nothing like it.

Me:    How is playing internationally different from playing in America?

Maci: Playing internationally you don’t know your teammates as well. There can be a language barrier which can make it difficult to communicate with teammates and coaches. The game environment and fan attendance was not the same as UK. For my team we would play only one game a week instead of two/ sometimes 3 (speaking on college)

Me:    What basketball goals do you have for yourself and your career?

Maci: For me I just want to win wherever I’m at. I don’t have specific personal goals besides just to improve my game in different areas. I just want to win.

Me:    Who is been the most inspirational person in your life and why?

Maci: I would say my parents would be the most inspirational people in my life. Early on in my life they established certain characteristics in me that would help me succeed on and off the court. They were great examples of hard workers. My dad taught me almost everything about basketball and I would have never been where I am today without him.

Me:    Who was your favorite basketball player growing up?

Maci: My favorite basketball player growing up was Ray Allen

Me:    What has been the hardest part about moving to Italy?

Maci: The hardest part about moving to Italy was just leaving my family and friends. Not being able to see them for 7 months was tough. There was definitely some culture shock as well but I think just being so far away from your loved ones is the toughest part.

Me:    What do you hope to be doing after your basketball career?

Maci: I hope to either be coaching or going back to school to become a physician’s assistant. I’m just letting God direct my path.

Me:    What would you tell a younger player you wish you would have known?

Maci: Don’t let anyone still your joy and love for the game. Control what you can control. As long as you work hard and do what’s right, that’s all you can do. Don’t worry about what others aren’t doing.


Mike Taylor – Building Community

Mike Taylor with the LA Clippers

Life With Lukas By Lukas Witt | 11 years old

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to be the first person to do or accomplish something no one else ever had? Mike Taylor born January 21, 1986 in Chicago, IL and moved to Milwaukee, WI at age 3 is just that guy. Mike Taylor attended Marshall High School in Milwaukee, WI where he recently had his jersey retired, he was not highly recruited from high school, he attended Chipola Junior College (2004-2006) in Florida before transferring to Iowa State (2006-2007). This is where things get interesting, during the 2007-2008 season Taylor played for the Idaho Stampede of the NBA D-League in 2008 winning a championship. Mike Taylor became the first player in NBA history to be drafted to the NBA from the D-League where he was selected 55th overall to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Taylor has played basketball all over the world and landed him self a spot in Ice Cube’s famous Big 3 Basketball League, where we met. As he enters his 2nd season and Co-Captain of the Ghost Ballers I talked to him and got his take on lots of topics, check out our Q&A below.

Me: Who was your favorite basketball player growing up?

Mike: Growing up my favorite basketball player was Isaiah Thomas of the original bad boy Detroit Pistons. I started watching basketball when I was 4-5 years old and this was when he had won his second championship. I was I small guy and I just loved how hard he played and the way he controlled the ball, never backed down from anyone. Later on in the 90’s Michael Jordan of course, but I have to say more so it was Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, and the 1996 that draft class with Ray Allen from the Milwaukee Bucks. I was an extreme fan of the game from young age always and two of my local favorite basketball players were Greg Brown and JR Morris, I watched them all of my elementary, middle school years growing up and OMG, they where like Jordan and Pippen to me!! I saw them score the ball like no other and that made me want to just get buckets like watching a karate movie growing up and right after you try all the moves you saw. LOL. 

Me: Who has been the most inspirational person in your life and why?

Mike: My mother is the most inspirational person in my life because at a very earlier age she catered to my imagination and dreams and challenged me to learn something to better myself daily. Still to this day it’s so inspiring the encouragement and for the young Mike T, I watched my mom work hard everyday 2-3 jobs to provide for my sister and 2 younger bro’s, she was the crossing guard in our neighborhood and work two regular jobs just that eagerness to get up every day no matter what was instilled in me very early.

Me: What are you most excited for this year in the Big 3?

Mike: It’s a few things I’m excited about, First, I’m excited to be a Co-Captain of the Ghost Ballers. Second, I love the YOUNG 3 and the staff that’s around that, that was truly a highlight for me last season. And this year having all the games on one day is going to be exciting!! Just competition I love that part of the game, the fire ball foul challenge will be very exciting I believe.

Me: What advice do you have for your 20 year old self?

Mike: Wow, knowing what I know now! I struggled with death at around the age 20, a lot of my friends passed and I took it very hard. Mental healthcare wasn’t known like it is now. I really battled and suffered with that, so if I had advice, I would say death is a natural part of life. You should talk to someone let them know what your real life is like not just the basketball side they see from the outside. Believe in yourself, you got to stop looking for it, all the help u need is within. 

Me: How does it feel to have had your jersey retirement?

Mike: Having my basketball jersey retired feels amazing, an outta body experience still. I’ve put in a lot of hard work and sacrifice of my happiness to give to the game and in my area of Milwaukee. Around my era there was no one that I knew of that did it like me!! I was the least talked about maybe like 5-6 guys were better then me but none of them outworked me, plus to think 15 years later I’ve got honored for the work I did in 2004 it means a lot to be inspiration to the kids after me!! 

Taylor Made Foundation

Me: What made you get so involved in community outreach and what do you hope to accomplish?

Mike: I’ve always been involved in my community even as a shorty, my mom made it mandatory. We gave back from feeding the less fortunate, reading to the elderly, toy drives, cause it was right next door to us sometimes knocking on our front door. It wasn’t something we could hide from, where I’m from as I got older and could do more I did just that. When I was in the NBA 2008-2010 I gave the boys and girls basketball team New Jersey’s warm-ups, shoes and all but I never wanted to be recognized for things that just came from the heart. We are living in different time now and a lot of people do things just to be recognized for it, that was never my intention and never will be. I do this because I was once one of these lil boys looking, searching, praying, hoping, hooping for away out of poverty. 

I set out to accomplish and make it popular for the athlete that’s able to make it out of the environment they were raised in and became successful. To come back and be that inspiration to their peers, adults, but must importantly the child, the youth who’s not as good with the ball like we were. To that lost child that’s got their hand gun finger on the trigger or his hand behind the wheel of a stolen car. To uplift the community and the space around us to be the example and staple to bridge the gaps of our generation from generations before. Be like if MIKE TAYLOR can do it and make it from the same streets I can too!!! We can change the conditions if we all come together but it takes a team and basketball exemplified that for me.

Me: What do you want your legacy to be?

Mike: I want my legacy to be a true reflection of my nature, who I truly am within not about what I’ve been able to accomplish. Even though I’ve been able to accomplish great things it’s been above what’s within more then what the ideal of what success looks like yet. Also, the relentless pursuit, grind and growth on my journey and how I handled adversity at a high level becoming better and better every single day!! 

Me: Anything else you want to share?

Mike: MIKE TAYLOR DAY was ofically AUGUST 4th last year in the city of Milwaukee this is the day the Big 3 came to Milwaukee’s Fisver Forum. We had our inaugural 4ONE4ALL COME UNITY EVENT in the hood!! On Burleigh in the 53206 zip code which is one of the worst areas for a black person to live in the country!! Also, we put together and WINTER COAT and SHOE ASSIST in October and November of 2019 and January 2020 where we gave over 500 new TAYLORMADE coats and over 300 new and slightly used shoes, boots, hats, gloves, and scarf all through tout the city of Milwaukee!! 

I have a lot of things coming this summer 2020 with The TAYLORMADE Foundation I am having a summer life skills academy we put together for the inner city youth of Milwaukee at my high school John Marshall in June!! We still need help with funding this event. I plan to have it free for the youth ages 5-17 and need donations, sponsorships, partnerships for anyone willing to be apart and assist can contact us taylormadefoundation414.org 

Mike: I thank you Lukas for always reaching out to me lil bro I respect yo hussle! DON’T WISH FOR IT WORK FOR IT 

click for more info

edits done by Tonia Witt.

#18 Kentucky Women stun #6 Mississippi State

Patients from UK Children’s Hospital join the team for pre-game introductions
(photo credit Tonia Witt – SVA)

By 11 year old Lukas Witt

#18 Kentucky Women’s Basketball upset the #6 Mississippi State Bulldogs at Memorial Coliseum taking their record to 19-5 (8-4 SEC) on hand for the game were special guests from UK Children’s Hospital who were able to be introduced with the Kentucky starting lineup and enjoy the Cats 73-62 win. The Bulldogs went down 6-0 before Kentucky’s Coach Mitchell called a timeout to re-group, after that it didn’t take long for the Cats to get on track and they would go on to lead the game for 36:21. Kentucky kicked off Sophomore Guard Rhyne Howard’s National Player of the Year campaign this week and she did not disappoint finishing with 26 points and surpassing her 1,000th point of her career, getting there 2nd quickest in program history. Howard also added 10 rebounds getting her fifth double-double this season. Chasity Patterson added 15 points and 3 rebounds in just 19 minutes of play and Jaida Roper added 14 points and 5 assists. Ogechi Anyagaligbo added 4 points and 3 rebounds, Sabrina Haines had 3 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals late in the game, KeKe McKinney did not score but had 4 assists and 2 rebounds, Tatyana Wyatt added 8 points and 6 rebounds, and Amanda Paschal added 3 points. Blair Greene and Nae Nae Cole both played but did not score. Kentucky returns to action on Thursday, visiting Oxford to take on Ole Miss. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network Plus.

One-on-One with True Blue Customs

Life With Lukas (11 year old Lukas Witt)

Billy Hobbs, owner of True Blue Customs sat down with me to talk about his passion for custom sneakers. As you will see painting sneakers is more than a job to Hobbs, it’s friendships and causes that it all worthwhile. Hobbs has been customizing full time for about 5 years. He has done work for lots of athletes from elementary to the pros and celebrities and everyday normal people like me.

my shoes by Hobbs (Lukas X brand, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, Stephan Jackson customs for Big 3 and UK heat)

Lukas: What’s your favorite shoe to customize?

Billy: “I would have to say Air Force 1, cause I do so many of them and it’s a simple, it’s an all white base shoe and it’s a leather shoe so that is probably one of my favorites”

Lukas: What shoe has gotten the most traffic on social media?

Billy: “Hmmm, it’s kinda hard to tell, some of the Hype Beast type shoe’s I’ve done. I’ve done a couple cause themed, I’ve done a couple of Louis Vuitton that have gotten kinda crazy, but usually anything the UK Basketball guys wear or anybody like Willie Cauley-Stein or Devin Booker anytime those guys wear my stuff those are usually the ones that get crazy looks?

(top right: custom for Markelle Fultz, bottom right: UK team shoe;
top left custom for Stephen Jackson; bottom left: custom for Justin Timberlake)

Lukas: What’s the most difficult shoe to work with?

Billy: “Meshes, like a lot of the newer shoes are weird cause they have weird materials so they are hard to work with so mesh, synthetics it is a different process you have to sand them and do different additives to make sure they hold up”

Lukas: What project has allowed for a great friendship that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible?

Billy: “I am going to have to go back to Willie Cauley-Stein, when I did the gold Jordan 11 for Willie, I mean I did a bunch of stuff for him, little small stuff. But the gold Jordan 11 that he wore in 2015 I believe it was 2014-2015, we we 38 and we aren’t gonna talk about that. They were white with gold patent leather, those were probably the biggest one and since then Will and I have kept tight and I do stuff for him all the time. I went and visited him last week, so it’s a pretty good friendship”

2014-2015 Jordan 11 custom for Willie Cauley-Stein

Lukas: I know you’ve always wanted to do a custom shoe FOR Kobe. Since his death who are some people who have reached out for some sole inspiration?

Billy: “I’ve had a bunch of people reach out and want to do a Kobe tribute, Willie Cauley-Stein was one of the main ones. But I have had a lot of other clients, I’ve got a bunch of baseball guys since MLB is getting ready to start up. I have a bunch of those guys I will be doing here in the next couple weeks. There have been a ton but I am not really taking a whole bunch of them because I just don’t feel right so I am actually taking so money from that and donating the money to the MambaOn 3 Fund”

Kobe customs for Willie Cauley-Stein and several UK basketball players

Lukas: What’s the most inspirational shoe you’ve done and why?

Billy: “That’s a good one, probably the Kobe pair I did for Willie (Willie Cauley Stein) a couple weeks ago because the significance of it with Kobe passing away. He was a big part of me being a Lakers fan for the last 20 years and I know he touched a lot of people not only with basketball but with the community, pretty much everyone loved Kobe”

Kobe customs for Willie Cauley-Stein

Lukas: What has been the most difficult shoe project?

Billy: “Difficult. Portraits are always difficult. That has kinda been my kryptonite is what I tell people, but I am slowly starting to get better, like my portraits are starting to look more like the actual people. Like the Kobe pair for Willie, I was pleased and surprised myself. At least I am not painting kids pictures and they look like little Chucky dolls, so that is always good”

Lukas: What’s a project you would like to be a part of?

Billy: “I would love to be able to do something else for All-Star Weekend, I would love to be a part of that with Jordan Brand and Nike and do something cool, like I know last year I had Hami (Hamidou Diallo) in the Dunk Contest but I would love to be able to be there and doing something there. I think it would be awesome”

Hami wins Dunk Contest at 2019 NBA All-Star Game

Lukas: When people hear True Blue Customs and Billy Hobbs what do you hope they will remember?

Billy: “I hope they think they remember me as an artist that pushed the envelope a little bit and did what I could to make people smile and make people happy and I want people to look at me and say hey he was doing it for the right reasons”

Stay tuned to Life with Lukas for more stories and interviews.

#15 Kentucky Women squeak past Alabama

Jaida Roper drives to the basket (photo credit Tonia Witt – SVA)

By Lukas Witt (11 years old)

#15 Kentucky Women (18-4) come away with win against Alabama (13-10) 66-62 at Memorial Coliseum. Rhyne Howard was out for her third game with a fractured finger she injured against Auburn late in January, she was seen without her cast and expects to return mid-February which would be just in time for when Mississippi State comes to town for a big SEC battle. The Cats got off to a slow start offensively but won the rebounding edge early on against a bigger more physical Alabama team. Sabrina Haines finished with 14 points, going 4-of-7 from 3 with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Senior Jaida Roper scored 10 points with 5 assists and 2 steals. Chasity Patterson scored 11 points with 4 assists and 3 rebounds. KeKe McKinney scored 9 points in the game with 6 rebounds and 5 blocks. Kentucky committed just 6 turnovers while forcing Alabama to 17 on the night. The Wildcats will return to action Sunday, Feb. 9 when they travel to No. 25 Arkansas for a 4 p.m. ET tip on ESPN2. 

#15 Cats come out on top in late night Bluegrass battle

Cats walking out of Rupp with a win (photo credit Mike Cyrus -SVA)

By Lukas Witt (11 years old)

#15 Kentucky gets big play from key Cats in a 80-72 late night win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in from of 20,000+ fan at Rupp. Nick Richards grabbed his 10th double-double of the season last night dropping a career high 27 points 25 of those coming in the second half and 11 rebounds. In all of his previous games for the Cats before this season Richards had only one double-double, he has turned it up to another level and has 10 on the season. Immanuel Quickley finished with 21 points and went 14-14 from the free throw line. Nate Sestina who had been struggling lately finished with 6 points going 3-5 from the field and grabbed 3 rebounds in just 15 minutes of play. Then there was EJ Montgomery who we all have been waiting on to be that guy, well he was that guy against the Bulldogs. Montgomery showed fight and determination as he finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals, more important he was active on both ends of the floor creating for his teammates. The Cats went 31-36 from the free throw line with 86.1% and had just 8 turnovers. The story of the night was 3-pt shooting, we often hear Coach Cal say you can miss you just can’t miss them all, well they almost did, hitting just 1-10 a slim 10% from behind the arch. Kentucky visits border rival Tennessee on Saturday, looking to end a two-game slide against the Volunteers for a 1:00 tip and can been seen on CBS.

#13 Cats in a dog fight against Tigers

Howard fights for late game turnover (photo credit: Tonia Rice Witt – SVA)

By Lukas Witt (11 years old)

#13 Kentucky Wildcats faced a dog fight against the Auburn Tigers at Memorial Coliseum but come out on top 68-61. The Cats got out to a fast start with a couple 3’s from Blair Green and lead most of the way until they ran into a roadblock the 3rd quarter as Auburn went on a 12-0 run. The Tigers never let Rhyne Howard get in a groove throughout the game as she finished with just 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Howard went out for a short time late in the game with what seemed to be a dislocated finger on her left hand, that didn’t stop her from returning to the game and hitting a clutch basket and free throws late in the game. At one free throw break you could see teammate Amanda Paschal helping Howard by tying her shoe. KeKe McKinney was back after 3 games out from what we were told was a migraine. McKinney finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds. The red-shirt senior transfer Sabrina Haines took over late in the game and finished with 17 points and 5 rebounds. The Tigers led in almost every stat except turnovers and the Cats points off turnovers and late free throws capped the win. The win against the Tigers takes the Cats record to 10-0 in Memorial. Kentucky returns to action on Thursday, visiting Missouri in Columbia. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.

Richards comes up clutch in OT thriller in Lubbock

just another day in the office – Nick Richards (photo credit Kentucky MBB)

Life with Lukas: By Lukas Witt (11 years old)

#15 Wildcats come up big on the road in the Big 12/SEC Challenge against #18 Texas Tech. It was a home coming for Tyrese Maxey as he is the only player on the Kentucky roster who hails from the state of Texas. This game did not disappoint, it was a back and forth game from the start. There were 8 lead changes and the score was tied 9 times throughout the game but Kentucky held off the Red Raiders 76-74 in an overtime thriller.

Let’s look at the stats, lots of career nights for some guys. Playing a career-high 42 minutes, Immanuel Quickley had 21 points and 6 rebounds, and went 4 of 8 on 3-point shots, in the last 8 games IQ is averaging nearly 18 points per game. Let’s not forget that half court shot he sank at the buzzer to end the first half. Also playing a career-high-tying 43 minutes, Ashton Hagans had 6 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals. Nate Sestina seems to be getting back in the groove of things since that Utah game, he finished with just 8 points before fouling out, but hit 2 clutch 3 points down the stretch. The man of the game was none other than Nick Richards playing a career-high 39 minutes, Richards finished tying a career high 25 points and 14 rebounds, his eighth double-double in 19 games. He had one double-double in 74 games prior to this season. He shot 7 of 10 from the field, 11 of 14 free throws, including 5 of 5 in the overtime.

Even though this was a back and forth battle Kentucky never trailed in the second half. The Cats had 20 turnovers, that is something they will need to clean up as the season rolls on. Next up: Kentucky returns to Southeastern Conference action Wednesday at home vs. Vanderbilt. Game time is 6:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.

Kentucky holds off Georgia

Keion Brooks Jr. making his mark (photo credit Mont Dawson – SVA)

By Lukas Witt (11 years old)

#15 Kentucky pushed their record to 14-4 overall (5-1 in SEC) and grabbed a 89-79 win in their second meeting against the Georgia Bulldogs. Kentucky started out hot as they jumped to a 6-0 lead. Ashton Hagans continues to prove why he is one of the best point guards in the country, he finished with 23 points, 4 steals, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds as he ran the show for the Cats. Nick Richards had another solid and impressive outing finishing with 20 points, 3 blocks, and 8 rebounds. Immanuel Quickley finish with 12 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists and another all-around solid game. Keion Brooks continues to get better each game, he finished with 8 points and 5 boards. EJ Montgomery is beginning to find his role and ended with 10 points, 1 steal, 2 blocks, and 6 rebounds. Kentucky was terrific from the free-throw line as the went 26-33 (78.8%). The Cats committed just 11 turnovers while dishing out 15 assists. The Cats will have to learn how to maintain their command late in games if they wanna make a run at another SEC title. Kentucky’s next game will be against Texas Tech at Lubbock Texas in the SEC Big 12 challenge, this game can be found on ESPN January 25th at 6 PM.

Kentucky stays perfect in SEC play

Celebrations (photo credit Mont Dawson)

By Lukas Witt (11 years old)

#14 Kentucky Basketball knocks off Alabama 76-67 at home to grab 1000th SEC victory and 4th win in a row in front of 20,407 at Rupp. Big man Nick Richards is still letting everyone know who owns the paint in Kentucky with 5 blocked shots. Richards finished with his seventh double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds. Ashton Hagans was near a triple-double with 15 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 steals to boot. EJ Montgomery’s stat line isn’t super impressive but the Cats were most productive when he was on the floor. Montgomery finished with 8 points (4-6 from the floor) and 6 rebounds. All eyes were on Sophomore Immanuel Quickley as he continues to play off the bench and averaging 18.8 points per game during the win streak, this game was no different he finished with 19 points and 5-6 from behind the arch, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. It looks like the Cats took a lesson from the UK Women earlier in the week as they finished 9-15 from behind the arch a season best 60%, they will need that consistency as they get deeper into SEC play.

Kentucky plays at South Carolina on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., the game will be televised on the SEC Network.