Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

May 7, 2014

McGuire takes flight to Knights

RUSSELL — The future went from bright to bleak with each of the three breaks.

When Russell senior Johnny McGuire sustained his third fibula fracture in his left leg in five months, the 6-foot-5 center thought he’d hit his breaking point.

“I called (Red Devils coach Merle Kidwell) and told him I wasn’t playing no matter what happened,” McGuire recalled.

However, in January — two months after the third injury — he was back on the court.

Come this winter, he’ll suit up for Kentucky Christian University. McGuire signed a letter of intent with the school on Wednesday afternoon in the Russell High School library.

“I’m not done playing basketball,” said McGuire, even though he clearly remembers the short period in which he thought his playing days were over.

While sidelined, he still frequented practices and spent time with teammates between rehab sessions at Premier Physical Therapy & Health Center.

“I just couldn’t quit,” McGuire said. “You don’t really realize what you had until you’ve lost it.”

McGuire said that doctors intentionally didn’t wait for the bone to completely heal during the third recovery stint. Once he regained enough strength, he was cleared to return and play with a brace.

Plagued by other injuries, Russell won just two games after McGuire came back. The Red Devils finished with a 6-24 record after Lewis County eliminated them in the 63rd District tournament.

“Most people wouldn’t have even tried to come back,” Kidwell said. “We were struggling through a tough season, and it would’ve been easy for him to throw in the towel. But he wanted to be back out there with his teammates.”

McGuire contributed heavily throughout his junior season, averaging 6.6 points per game while serving as a solid defensive presence in the post. Russell won 26 games and earned a 16th Region semifinal appearance.

Coming into the 2013-14 season, Kidwell was prepared to revolve the game plan around McGuire.

“I thought he had his most productive summer he’d ever had,” Kidwell said. “I thought the light came on for him as far as putting the work in.”

McGuire never rediscovered his shooting stroke as a senior, routinely recording low-scoring games, but he rekindled the fire inside the paint defensively. He posted several efforts of five or more blocked shots.

KCU coach Ron Reed said he currently has McGuire penciled in the seventh slot on the depth chart.

“He’d better be ready to play,” Reed said. “When he came out and worked out with us, he shot the ball well, rebounded well and, more importantly, he got along with our players off the court.”

The Knights finished at 14-15 following a 1-11 start last season. They return everyone from last year’s roster, which includes just two players as tall as McGuire.

Kidwell called McGuire “a steal” for KCU.

McGuire knows he must log ample time in the weight room before expecting to succeed in college.

“I’m a bit lacking in upper body strength, so I’m going to have to bulk up,” McGuire said.

McGuire turned down an offer to play golf at the University of Pikeville with his brother, Sam. He plans to study education and pursue a career in teaching math at the high school level.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.

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