UK freshman Maxey goes off for 26 points against No. 1 Michigan State


Kentucky freshman guard Tyrese Maxey points to the crowd after Kentucky’s game against Michigan State as part of the State Farm Champions Classic on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. UK won 69-62. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

He walked up to the podium with a smile on his face, sat down between two of his teammates, and barely got through one question about the numbers he had just put up without patting Nick Richards and Ashton Hagans on the back.

Even after his stellar performance in Madison Square Garden against Michigan State, the top-ranked team in the country, Kentucky freshman Tyrese Maxey hardly took the credit for what had previously transpired. 

“I feel like I played okay,” Maxey said. “I feel like I played to win and that was the outcome of the game. I’m very excited for my team, it was really fun.”

The 6-foot-3 guard totaled 26 points, five rebounds, an assist and a steal in Kentucky’s 69-62 win over the Spartans. Also, he did that coming off the bench.

“I didn’t start him because I told him, ‘I want you to come in firing.’ And I said, ‘I want you to watch what’s happening and then you get in there and you let it go,'” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. 

Calipari says part of why Maxey is so tough is because of who he has to go against in practice. 

“I don’t know if he said this, but he has to go against Ashton everyday,” Calipari said. “Like, it’s ridiculously hard. He gets demoralized at times and I keep telling him, ‘there’s no defender like this kid.'”

Guarding Hagans in practice and taking tough shots all summer paid off for Maxey– the freshman hit a couple threes from way downtown, and of them was with one minute left in a two-point game. 

“Honestly, I just trust my training,” Maxey said. “Coach Cal told me I put in the work, get up at 6:00 every morning, and I shoot that shot up 1,000 times. I shot it 1,000 times in high school. Shot it 1,000 times this summer and I have confidence in myself because I put in the work.”

Hagans says he isn’t surprised at all at Maxey’s debut performance. In fact, he says he “expects” that out of him because of what he’s shown in high school and in AAU, and that Coach Cal tells him to stay on Maxey. 

“Ashton was on me and Nate (Sestina) was on me about my spirit,” Maxey said. “Just being happy, smiling, boosting my teammates and that’s what I did.”

A statistical correction was made to this article. With one minute left, the score was 62-60, not tied.