At an American Athletic Union tournament, coach Tonya Cardoza was scouting a potential recruiting target in Summer 2014. But she didn’t expect to be blown away by a guard playing on the court behind the one she was watching.
The guard who caught Cardoza’s eye was Marissa Mackins. And from that tournament on, Mackins became a top target for Temple until she signed her National Letter of Intent in November.
“I picked Temple because it just felt like home,” said Mackins, a 5-foot-8-inch guard from Carolina Prep Academy in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “I really felt I was meant to be there. The recruiting process was long, but it was interesting. And I felt a lot of love from all the coaching staffs interested in me, but I just felt it from Temple the most.”
Mackins is one of two incoming high school signees, joining Alexa Williamson — a 6-foot-1-inch forward from Houston, Pennsylvania. Mackins is the only guard in the class, and her skill set has Temple’s coaches ready for her to step on the court and make an immediate impact next season.
“Marissa can just flat-out score,” associate head coach Way Veney said. “She’s a triple-threat kid who can shoot it, and she’ll benefit and get some playing time early because she’s a combo guard. She can play the point or the shooting guard and get her into the offense.”
Mackins averaged 18.3 points and 4.8 assists per game last season for Carolina Prep Academy, which she transferred to for her junior season from Southern Durham High School. She won the Big 8 Conference co-Player of the Year award in March 2016 at Southern Durham.
This season, Mackins is averaging 15.7 points and 7.8 assists per game, according to MaxPreps.
“I’m a threat on and off the ball, around the perimeter, mid-range and even in the paint,” Mackins said. “I love the confidence the coaching staff already has in me. It is incredible the way they believe in me so much.”
Cardoza lucked into finding Mackins at her AAU tournament, and Veney considers her a “diamond in the rough” because she was under the radar for many top programs. Besides Temple, Mackins had offers from Florida International University and Old Dominion University. Florida International hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2002, and Old Dominion hasn’t qualified since 2008.
Finding under-recruited players like Mackins has been crucial to Temple’s three straight seasons of 20 or more wins. The coaches know they won’t beat out some of the top teams, like American Athletic Conference opponent Connecticut, for the top players.
Despite the Owls being 0-9 against Connecticut under Cardoza, the coaching staff uses the opportunity to face the 11-time national champions as a recruiting ploy.
“Playing UConn twice a year is something I’d call a recruiting advantage for us,” Veney said. “We can just tell the kids we’re recruiting, ‘Hey, to be the best you got to beat the best, and we play the best twice a year.’ Playing UConn twice also gives us more TV games, which we can use too for players from further away so they can have their family still watch them if they can’t make it to the games.”
Recruiting comes down to fit — making sure the school has the right on-court system, the right major and the right culture for a player.
Because Temple is in the sixth-largest city in the country, the coaching staff has to make sure recruits from smaller towns can handle it. That was a concern for Mackins.
“Being in that big of a city was overwhelming at first,” Mackins said. “I’m from a small town so I was just in awe. It’s such a beautiful city, especially at night.”
Temple’s 2018 recruiting class will join a young team, with three starters and three bench players entering their sophomore years. Senior guard Alliya Butts, who is out for the season with a torn ACL and is the program’s eighth all-time scorer, will also return to the court.
“Next season we’re still going to be a young team, but we’ll be a young and experienced team,” Veney said. “Sure we’re taking our bumps and bruises now, but that’ll help us develop as a team with all these young players thrown right into the fire.”