Owsley County is one of the smallest counties in Kentucky, but it’s home to one of the biggest basketball stars in the class of 2018.
Macie Gibson is 6-foot-1 and the lone senior on the Owlsey County High School girls’ team, which was 16-7 entering Wednesday. That’s already more wins than the Owls have had in all but two of Gibson’s seasons — it matched the 16 games Owsley County won when she was a freshman, her first season leading the team in scoring, and 18 games when she was in sixth grade, when she played in half of the team’s 31 contests.
Gibson scored 29 points in a win over Buckhorn on Monday, putting her over 3,000 points for her career. That list featured just 23 girls before this season. She’s averaging a state-best 31 points per game.
It’s not out of the ordinary to see a post player make more than half their shots (Gibson is shooting 54 percent from the floor as a senior), but her 38.3-percent accuracy from three-point range raises some eyebrows. Twenty years ago such a percentage from a post player would have been revolutionary; now it’s an indispensible part of one’s game that makes playing at the next level more of a possibility.
“I like to shoot a lot,” Gibson said with a laugh. “I really like to get rebounds too.”
She likes rebounding enough to lead the state in that category, too, at 17.2 a night. She’s surpassed 1,600 total rebounds for her career and should finish somewhere inside the top 15 in state history, and could find herself in the top 10 if the Owls make a deep-enough run in the postseason.
Gibson towers over both her parents, but she believes her height comes from her mother’s side of the family (her mom’s father is 6-foot-4 and one of her mom’s cousins is 6-foot-7). Her size is a factor, but head coach Charles Davidson said she’s a natural around the glass.
“She’s got a good nose for the ball. She boxes out well and knows where it’s at,” Davidson said. “Her size helps too, a little bit. You get 20 rebounds in a game, you’ve got a little more than just being big.”
Owsley County has never won a region title in boys’ or girls’ basketball, but Davidson thinks the Owls are in a group of teams — along with Lee County, Leslie County, Knott County Central, Hazard and Perry County Central — that all have a reasonable chance of getting out of the 14th Region. Owsley County is ranked fifth of those six in the latest Cantrall Ratings.
“We’ve had some talented teams but we’ve always been not quite where we wanted to be or were missing a piece here or there,” said Davidson, who’s also the principal at Owsley County. “This has probably been the first year that we’ve been able to compete and feel like we’ve got a shot at winning our region and get to state. A truly, realistic shot. We feel like we can compete with anybody on a given night.”
Gibson committed to Murray State University in late November and will soon join a signing class that already includes three Murray High School stars (Alexis Burpo, Lex Mayes and Macey Turley) as well as DeAsia Outlaw, a junior-college standout who played at Henderson County. Gibson was something of a late bloomer in terms of her recruitment; she decided to go all-in the summer before her junior season and earned a spot with the Kentucky Premier AAU program. That ensured she would get exposure against stronger talent on the court and to college coaches despite playing in a county with about 4,800 citizens (second only to Robertson County in the state).
“Word spreads quickly when a player can play no matter where they’re at, and you can tell,” Davidson said. “When you get to a certain level and you’re that talented, you’re gonna get seen no matter where you’re at.”
That didn’t stop other high school programs from trying to poach the mountain star in an effort to reinforce their front courts.
“It’s my hometown and I want to stay true to my hometown,” Gibson said of those efforts. “If you’re gonna grow up there, why not play for the school?”