up the sleeve on his XXL-sized t-shirt, Stuart Mackay proudly displays
the evidence to underline his satisfaction at being back with Edinburgh
Rocks. Forced into exile for the duration of last season with Thames Valley
Tigers, the Scottish international is clearly on more comfortable ground
since returning to Meadowbank in the summer, the insecurities he assumed
in Bracknell requiring drastic modes of self-assurance.
"When I was down
there, I was feeling a little lost," he explains, pumping up a forearm
of girder thickness. "So I got the Lion Rampant tattooed on my arm just
to remind me of where I'm from."
Even without such
indelible adornments, Mackay's 6'10" frame cuts an imposing figure, his
broad frame a mountainous barrier under the basket where his duties lie.
Thames Valley, like Edinburgh, failed to make the play-offs last term,
torn apart by indiscipline and internal conflict.
During that spell,
Mackay often appeared a disenfranchised soul at the end of the Tigers'bench,
only utilised by Tigers coach Paul James in minimal bursts, often when
the result was already beyond doubt.
"It was a disappointment
leaving here in the first place," he recounts. "The only reason I went
to Bracknell was because at that point, it didn't look like there would
be a team at all here and I had to take the chance to move elsewhere."
Opting for a return
to his favoured patch despite an offer to remain with Thames Valley, he
admits he now has something to prove to his former mentor. "I felt I wasn't
getting enough chance to get on the court and show what I could do," he
"Off the court, PJ's
a great guy but some of his ideas didn't gel with the way I had been taught
to play basketball so that held me back. With the team we had last year,
he was expecting the talent we had to take him further than his coaching
abilities. Obviously it was disappointing for all of us, and him, when
that didn't arise."
Under Kevin Wall,
Mackay has been given a definite opportunity to convert inherent power
into performance. His tandem with Canadian Brendan Graves, a pairing which
flourished during the Rocks' run to the Championship semi-finals of 2000,
has been restored after a season in abeyance.
burly Scot admits he would dearly love to steal the starting job from Graves.
But he confesses no genuine complaint about his secondary role.
"I'll be diplomatic,"
he grins. "As long as the team wins, I'm fine with it. Brendan's an athletic
guy. I know if we are running sprints, I'll be two steps behind him and
I need to work to even that out. I know he is more talented than myself
but every day I'm getting closer. I know I need to get fitter and lose
some more weight. I'm only 85% just now and I'll look to be at my peak
in 2-3 weeks. "
It is an ideal outcome
which he hopes might send out a signal that Meadowbank will no longer be
a place where visiting combatants can comfortably pick up two points.
"Last year, when
Thames Valley came up here, the feeling was: 'It's the Rocks, this should
be an easy win'. And it was. We need to give every team we play a hard
game. We need to make the play-offs. We need to be challenging for Cups.
No-one on this group here wants to be a loser."
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