Mario McKinney knows how to make an entrance.
When his Vashon Wolverines came out for the second half tied with Christian Brothers College, the Missouri basketball signee drove down the lane and erupted for a thunderous dunk in front the Cadets’ student section.
The dunk was one a few highlight flushes from McKinney, a 6-foot-2 point guard who scored a game-high 28 points in Vashon’s 79-69 win.
“I just saw nobody was open so I just took it all the way,” McKinney said. “That dunk ended up getting me going.”
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Used at both guard spots for Vashon, a state powerhouse, McKinney looked like a player who can help a Missouri team that has struggled to score throughout the season, with star player Jontay Porter out for the year because of a torn ACL and MCL.
McKinney was the best player on the floor in a game that also featured a pair of top-30 recruits for the 2020 class in teammate Cam’Ron Fletcher and CBC’s Caleb Love, who scored 22 points in the loss.
McKinney said he has spent the majority of his season working on his ball handling and jump shot. He got most of his points by driving to the basket and had a few on putback dunks.
Rated a four-star recruit by ESPN, McKinney said he has a 37-inch vertical jump that allows him to play above the rim more than most point guards. But because of social media and YouTube clips, he’s not able to use it as a secret weapon the way he’d like to.
“Everybody we play they make sure to try and box me out because they know I have jumping ability,” he said. “ Every time one of my teammates shoots, I crash (the boards).”
Vashon coach Tony Irons said he’s been pleased with McKinney’s season and has tried to have him handle the ball and rebound more to better prepare him for college.
“He’s doing what we need him to do at this point,” Irons said. “Everything that we’ve been talking about is him stepping up, being a leader. We’re asking him to do a lot from a leadership standpoint.”
Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin was in attendance for McKinney’s performance and he’s recruited McKinney, a distant relative, on being a defensive stopper for MU. Martin’s cousin is married to McKinney’s aunt.
When McKinney signed in October, Martin said he’d like to see him become more of a consistent free-throw shooter and that appears to still be a hole in his game as he missed a number of shots from the charity stripe on Wednesday night.
McKinney heard from MU freshman point guard Xavier Pinson before his game and said he envisions himself being a scoring guard for Missouri like Pinson and Jordan Geist.
Aside from Martin, coaches from Saint Louis, Illinois, Kansas State and Duke were in the Cadets’ gym to watch Fletcher and Love, who both are being heavily pursued by Missouri.
Fletcher and McKinney are very close and Missouri is hoping its future point guard can help land the 6-foot-7 forward.
Fletcher said after the game that McKinney has been good about pitching him on playing together in college, but not overdoing it.
“I’ll be on him about it,” McKinney said. “But if he (goes elsewhere), we’ll still be fine. It’s his decision.”