Mr. Always There: Rice's Max Guercy all-time leader in time on court and off
“I still can remember my freshman year,” Rice’s senior point guard said. “Even when the season started, I couldn’t believe that I was a senior. I still (can’t) believe it.”
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Death, taxes, Max Guercy. You can set a clock to Ol’ No. 1, the Owls’ pilot light and their rock. Barring a freak injury or alien abduction, the Los Angeles native is on track to tie the Rice record for most starts in program history (120) when Florida International visits in a Conference USA tussle Saturday on ASN. He's the new benchmark for consistency and reliability.
“It’s been a journey,” said Guercy, who opened the week leading C-USA in free-throw percentage (.860) while ranking second in assists per game (5.5) and sixth in minutes played (33.6 per contest). “But at the same time, it’s gone pretty fast.”
While the Owls have weathered a coaching change (Ben Braun to Mike Rhoades after the spring of 2014), roster turnover and the ebb and flow of life in C-USA, the 5-9 Guercy keeps on — well, keeping on. The only senior on the Rice roster, Guercy has recorded 119 consecutive appearances as a starter, the most in Owls annals. He already ranks as the program’s all-time leader in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.78-to-1) and started the week with 459 career assists, putting him 44 dimes away from the new No. 1 mark in that category as well.
When you ask what he’s most proud of this season, where the last gasp of his legacy has cut the deepest swath, he talks about directing traffic. Which, with this many youngsters around, sometimes feels a bit like herding cats.
“I think this season, it’s definitely been about leadership,” Guercy said.
“We’ve got a young lineup … me being the only senior, it’s definitely been my leadership, just trying to keep the guys together, keep them motivated each and every day. Just to trying to get them better, get turned around, trying to get it together (during) the conference tournament. Hopefully we can.”
A modest, self-effacing kinesiology major, Guercy doesn’t take himself — or his career numbers — all that seriously. Kids? Mentoring? Different story. The Owls’ guard recently spoke at elementary schools as part of an anti-bullying campaign. He’s visited boys and girls clubs to preach education and volunteered at local soup kitchens.
“I think it’s just more visiting elementary schools and trying to give back,” Guercy said. “I’ve been to multiple schools in my career, giving back, reading … things you happen to do when you’re a student-athlete. Definitely, I think it’s more just (about) giving back, not just focusing on bullying or anything like that. Giving back to the community has helped me to get that (perspective) and I feel like it’s a good thing to have.”
Parents Marilyn and Max Sr. stressed the value of hard work, the reward in leaving it all out on the floor and in the classroom, regardless of the outcome, regardless of the venue, regardless of the competition.
“I just feel that’s the person that I am,” Guercy explained. “I like to thank the young fans at our games. I see myself in them. I wanted to become a college athlete — I was in the same position when I was younger. I looked up to older people, I looked up to guys who were playing at the collegiate level and I think it helps them out and (they) use it as motivation.
“At 8-9-10 (years old), when I was young, I used to play with a lot of older guys in high school … and once I got to high school and once I got to college, I was kind of prepared. As far as being a good person that helps them along the way, throughout high school and throughout college, helping others, that’s just regular in my life.”
When in doubt, give. Then give some more. The numbers tell one tale of impact, statistics cast in stone. Guercy prefers to think of the faces, impressions on the lives of strangers, the dozens of new friends over the years. A shopping spree for local youth over the last two Decembers. The Sundays in which kids with autism would roll in and cut loose at the Owls’ practice facility, with Guercy and teammate Marcus Jackson riding shotgun.
“It was great to see them just going out there having fun,” the Owls point man said, “and just sharing my time with them. Just an hour or two — that can help a lot. Just going out there and being with them makes a difference.
“I think one of the best things about it, when you see kids, when you see them grow. And also, when you go sign autographs for everything, and how much it means to them. I feel that the least I can do is being able to help kids, and hopefully that makes an impact in their lives. And I feel like it has, because every time I see them, it’s just like they have a big smile on their face.”
Because even for the best of givers, the receiving part of the equation never, ever, ever gets old.
Above and middle: Max Guercy has been the model of consistency for Rice — on track to tie the record for most starts in program history and guiding the younger members of the team. (Courtesy Erik Williams/Rice Athletics)