Justin McKoy appeared in 14 games as a true freshman in 2019-20. He went 3-for-3 from the field for a season-best six points at Purdue. McKoy played a season-high 17 minutes and finished with four points and five rebounds in a home win against North Carolina.
Hoos Life caught up with McKoy to discuss his rookie season, work ethic, favorite NBA players and what’s keeping him busy during the pandemic.
Q: Where are you living and how were your online classes to finish the semester?
McKoy: I am living back home in Raleigh, North Carolina, with my mom. My online classes were good. It was challenging to do the work from home, but I was able to get it done.
Q: What are your biggest takeaways and lessons you learned from your first season with the Cavaliers?
McKoy: The biggest takeaways from my first season are the experiences I had to go through to learn everything. It sounds vague, but learning the Pack Line defense, working my shot to perfection, and just having an expectation and knowing what’s needed for next season helps me prepare while we are away.
Q: You saw limited action your first season. How difficult was it for you to play a back-up role after a decorated high school career?
McKoy: It was very tough at first, I was used to playing every minute of the game. As the season went along, I realized it was a numbers thing and just about inevitable in our system. I knew I had to just work and focus on getting better.
Q: What surprised you and opened your eyes the most from playing in the ACC?
McKoy: How fast and intense the games are played. Everything goes at 100 miles per hour and it only gets easier the more experience you get.
Q: What was it like going head-to-head against Mamadi (Diakite) and Braxton (Key) every day in practice and how did it make you a better player?
McKoy: It was honestly the most fun I’ve had competing. We talked a lot of trash to each other. It was a great learning experience and I also took a lot of tips from those guys offensively and defensively for sure.
Q: You are known for having a strong work ethic and desire to improve. Where did you learn those valuable traits and what drives you to succeed, especially at this level?
McKoy: I believe I grew up with them. Ever since I was little, I had to fight for everything I wanted, and it never came easy. I get the strong-willed determination from my mom. If you knew our story and the way she worked, it would make perfect sense.
Q: How are you attacking the offseason to earn increased playing time and a bigger role next season?
McKoy: The coaching staff and I talked about areas that are going to be needed for the team and for me individually as a player. I took those and have been working on them daily.
Q: Who are your role models and why?
McKoy: It’s cliché, but my role model is my mom. She taught me everything I know and raised me under hard circumstances, so anyone would be lucky to share the same traits she does.
Q: Who are your favorite NBA players and which players do you try and model your game after?
McKoy: My favorite NBA players that I’ve been able to watch are Kevin Durant and LeBron James. They are the two most dominant players in the game. Durant’s skills are extremely impressive with his size and length. LeBron’s will to win, dominance, and IQ make him a once in a generation type of player.
Q: What are your best memories of your first year at UVA?
McKoy: Beating all the North Carolina teams this season and when Jayden Nixon received the scholarship he earned and deserved. Talking about work ethic, I almost got tired of seeing him in the gym, ha ha. They say iron sharpens iron and we definitely were the two having friendly competitions on who can outwork the other.
Q: The 2020-21 UVA men’s basketball roster includes fellow North Carolina natives Kadin Shedrick (Raleigh), Jay Huff (Durham), Trey Murphy III (Durham) and Carson McCorkle (Greensboro). You obviously know Kadin and Jay, but what about Murphy III and McCorkle?
McKoy: I have known Carson since I was in eighth grade. We played for the same organization and unofficially visited NC State together a couple times. I have known Trey since the beginning of my high school career. We played against each other in AAU and ran into each other on other occasions. Carson and Trey are both good friends, so it’s a special thing to me to have four true brothers who I know from my home state.
Q: What else are you doing for fun and to stay busy during this time at home?
McKoy: I have taught my mom and sister how to do our college lifts and they’ve been doing them with me. We have been working out together and completing a lot of home projects. It’s nice to be home with everyone and be able to do things we couldn’t because of my commitments to school and basketball.
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