Justin McKie was playing in a basketball tournament in Augusta this past April when he looked courtside and saw his father talking with Frank Martin.
“I see him talking to my dad and, in my head, I’m saying this can be something for you,” McKie said. “He’s a celebrity. He’s a great coach. I’d say one of the best coaches.”
Celebrity status also could be applied to Justin’s father. BJ McKie led Irmo High to multiple state titles before becoming the all-time leading scorer in USC history.
So, as the ink dried on the letter-of-intent to play for his father’s alma mater next season, McKie laughed at the memory of that first sighting of USC’s new coach.
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“You know, it’s Frank Martin,” he said. “Of course you’re going to look.”
Irmo coach Tim Whipple said his standout senior guard is a different kind of player than his father, but that in going to USC he’ll be falling in with the right person to get the most out of his talent.
“BJ was a strong, powerful point guard. Justin is a thin, more finesse, long, lanky, slasher-type player,” Whipple said. “For him to be successful in college, he’s going to have to get stronger, gain weight and learn to adjust.
“It’s going to take him a little time, but that’s normal.”
McKie, 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, is a consensus two-star athlete according to recruiting services and was mulling offers from Wichita State and Murray State among others before choosing to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Martin extended the scholarship offer just before the start of school.
“He talked to me about how he loved the way I played, loved my skill set and loved my passion for the game,” McKie said. “My hustle. Things like that.”
BJ McKie said he put no pressure on his son to follow in his footsteps, but is glad he made the decision.
“We treated every visit and every in-home visit the same way and it it all came down to I, he trusted in coach Martin and his staff and it was right in our backyard,” BJ McKie said. “It’s great that it was here. Family and friends can go see him play right down the street. It’s a great feeling.”