Last week when Gill St. Bernard’s (Gladstone, N.J.) wing Mackenzie Mgbako went to Madison Square Garden to watch Duke and Kentucky duel in the season opener, he did so as a fan of the game and not a specific team.
After all, both the Blue Devils and the Wildcats are high on his list and have recently hosted him for official visits.
“It was fun,” Mgbako said of the game, which Duke won 79-71. “I wasn’t cheering for either team, I was just enjoying good basketball.’
Still, Mgbako will admit this much, as a high priority recruit for both teams he had to be proactive to fight against overthinking every minute detail and applying it to his recruitment.
“I had to take a step back from thinking about which school I could like more and focused on the plays they ran, the coaching styles and things like that. I could definitely see myself in both of those systems.”
In addition to Duke and Kentucky, Mgbako has also taken officials to Memphis and Ohio State, a four-visit tour that he said only intensified the difficulty of his decision.
“Man, all that great food!” Mgbako said with a laugh. “Those visits are the best. You eat great and they have all your favorites. Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness was crazy in every way, Duke had a crazy photo shoot set up for me and the vibe was great, I went backstage before gameday at Memphis, which was cool, I went to the football game at Ohio State, which was so crazy… Yeah, it makes it tougher. You really have to separate things and focus on the most important parts.”
The full court recruiting press from the schools is understandable after Mgbakos’ dominant tear this summer with the NJ Scholars on the Nike EYBL, averaging 17 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 43% from the field.
Mgbako, a junior, managed that production while playing alongside DJ Wagner, who is widely regarded as the top overall prospect in the 2023 class.
At 6’8”, Mgbako is masterful at creating space and maneuvering around the perimeter to launch efficient jump shots from all over the floor. His length and quickness make him a headache of a defensive assignment and his ability to score at all three levels with equal efficiency is what makes him the most dangerous.
Those attributes have drawn him comparisons to Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum, a comp Mgbako embraces.
“I definitely want to play like Jayson Tatum, but I’m still trying to get there,” Mgbako said. “I actually FaceTime’d him before so that was pretty cool. For me, it’s all about the fit, and that’s something I feel like will come to me in time. I may take a couple unofficials, but I’m done with officials right now. I’m not in a big hurry. I may cut my list during the season, and I could see myself deciding next summer. Right now, I’m just enjoying the process.”