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There's a funny thing about great basketball scoring machines. The best ones usually don't care about the points beside their name.
It's all about the team having more points than the opponent.
Check out Larry Bird's stats. During his career with the Boston Celtics, he scored 21,791 points but had 5,695 assists. Interestingly, he's putting together a team in that same mindset with the Indiana Pacers.
Not coincidentally, Bird had three NBA titles and has put together the best team in the league in the early going.
Check out Michael Jordan. He filled the nets for 32,292 points but had 5,663 assists. And, of course, there were three world titles.
Julius Erving? The totals were 30,026 and 5,176. He had an NBA crown and a couple of ABA titles.
And so it is with Eriel McKee.
Friday night, she passed her cousin, C.J. Penny, as the leading scorer in Anderson County basketball history, girls or boys. She can simply take over a game with a devastating open court game and, with incredible athleticism and a feel for the game that simply can't be taught, she could seemingly score practically at will.
I caught up with McKee Saturday night after the Lady Bearcats had suffered their first loss of the season, to Columbus North, one of Indiana's best teams. As always, she was extremely polite, smiling and quietly answering a few questions.
What was striking was a reluctance to talk about herself.
“A lot of people helped me get here,” she said of her position as the most prolific scorer in Anderson County history.
Chances are, she could have scored much more. But like every other household hoops name, McKee understands that a 34-2 mark like the Lady Bearcats compiled last year, trumps 2,102 points – and counting – any time.
I was unable to be there the night McKee broke the record. A conflict in my own schedule kept me away Friday. Due to some erroneous information given to me, we had originally reported that McKee had passed Penny last Tuesday against Christian Academy of Louisville, when she was still 10 points short.
Thinking that she had passed Penny, I posted on Twitter that she was now the all-time scoring leader. Interestingly, the first person to retweet those words was none other than C.J. Penny.
“That's the kind of kid C.J. is,” Anderson boys' coach Glen Drury said when I relayed that little note about his former player. “He always put others in front of himself.”
And I see that so much in Eriel McKee as well.
“Eriel is more focused on the team,” Anderson girls' coach Tony Kays says. “She wants the team to become as good as it can be.”
Just like the greatest players, whether they play for the Indiana Pacers, the Anderson County Bearcats or any level in between.
Like McKee and Penny, Jimmy Dan Conner could have scored many more points. The whereabouts of his Anderson County stats, other than scoring averages, are unknown, but at the University of Kentucky, Conner led the team in assists two of three varsity years.
Jonathan Beasley, in 1995-97, could score practically when he wanted to for Anderson, but his passing skills might have been his biggest weapon.
And that is what I love about Eriel McKee's game. She's reluctant to talk about herself and usually lets her game carry on the conversation.
“The team is a lot more important,” she said. “It's not just about me. It is about others.”
It's an attitude that permeates the entire Lady Bearcat team and its why they have been so successful. The team simply comes first.
“Eriel was pleased we recognized her,” Kays said. “It's something down the road she can look back on. It's not just breaking the school scoring record but also being a part of the most successful team in Anderson County history.”
It would be no surprise if that is exactly what happens.
Top Anderson Co. scorers
*Actual point totals not available. Estimate based on averages from each season.
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