The running joke at Lakeville North is that JP Macura is in shooting range the moment he walks in the gymnasium. Put a basketball in Macura’s hands and he’ll test the theory.
“Sometimes he takes a shot and you think ‘What are you doing?’ He loves to be able to do just whatever he wants to do. There is an air of confidence about him,” Lakeville North boys’ basketball coach John Oxton said. “He’s just a loosey-goosey, whatever, do-your-thing type of person.”
Macura’s thing is making baskets. As a junior he broke the Panthers’ single-season scoring record with 765 points. He broke his own record as a senior (933 points and counting) and blew by the program’s previous career-scoring leader in only two years as a varsity starter.
Heading into Wednesday’s Class 4A quarterfinals against Buffalo, the Xavier-bound standout is two big games away from a 1,000-point season and one average game from fourth place on the Minnesota State High School League’s single-season scoring list.
Macura expects himself to score at least 25 a game to keep his team in contention, and more is always a possibility for the 6-5, 180-pound sharpshooter. He scored a career-high 55 earlier this season against Farmington and is coming off a 41-point performance in the Section 1 championship game against Rochester John Marshall. He averages 32.2 points per game.
“If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it,” said Macura, who shows no signs of being a selfish player, teammate or person. “I like scoring. It’s fun.”
His dad, Paul Macura, has a picture saved on his phone that best explains his son’s unique gift. It captures one of Macura’s three-pointers, launched from 5 feet beyond the arc in last year’s Class 4A quarterfinals against Park Center. The long ball capped a 19-point comeback to force overtime.
Macura is comfortable heaving shots from anywhere, and his field-goal percentage argues he’s good at it. He’s made 54.9 percent of his shots this season and has a career 51.3 shooting percentage. His defense needs to improve, he said, but an 81.2 free-throw percentage, four-assists-per-game average, six rebounds per game and just over two steals a game tell of a well-rounded athlete.
Thirty-one Division I programs were impressed, including the Gophers. The allure of smaller classes, a nationally rated recruiting class and past NCAA tournament success at Xavier won Macura’s heart.
The challenge credited for jump-starting Macura’s transition into a four-star Division I recruit stemmed from Tyus Jones, Apple Valley’s Duke recruit.
Macura’s sophomore season was spent on the varsity practice squad, where he often was called upon to emulate Jones. Macura knew Jones had few limits to his game and attempted to imitate that as much as possible.
“[Oxton] told me to do whatever I wanted and I just started shooting,” Macura remembered. “I realized I could start scoring all different ways.”
Two-plus years later, Macura is one of the state’s most prolific scorers and the top player to ever come out of Lakeville.
Oxton said he and Macura have been in on the secret that it’s been a “Big Four” of top Class of 2014 recruits — Jones, Reid Travis, Rashad Vaughn and Macura — once the Panthers’ star came onto the scene as a junior.
“His quick release and range make him tough to stop when he gets going,” said Jones, whose chance at another rematch against Macura disappeared when Apple Valley was upset in the Section 3 championship. “This week will be big for him. It’s his state tournament. He’ll put on a show like he always does.”