Merlene Davis: Shelvin Mack's mom credits many for his success

As Bryan Station and Butler star Shelvin Mack heads to his second Final Four, mom Victoria Guy is grateful for all the support he's had to reach his dreamsfor

Herald-Leader columnistMarch 31, 2011 

Victoria Guy is not showy and neither is her son Shelvin Mack, the star guard for the improbable Butler University Bulldogs, now playing in their second consecutive Final Four.

A few years ago, she was the quiet woman sitting at the end of the bleachers in Bryan Station High School's gym, usually with her two young daughters close by. Her son was the eighth-grader who was quietly getting the job done on the court.

Now she is a proud mother going to Houston to watch the son she gave birth to as a teenager fulfill his promise.

"It is very exciting," she said. "I am just blessed that he is living out his dreams.

"I was looking through his old school days book and saw where in the third grade he wrote that he wanted to be a professional basketball player," she said. "I'm just blessed."

Many might look at Guy, 36, see a single mother of three, living in Winburn, an often-disparaged neighborhood on the north side of Lexington, and think, how is she blessed? But those people are looking from a distance.

Draw closer and see the love and respect the mother has for her children and the children have for their mother. Many richer people have far fewer blessings than that.

Draw closer and see the willing sacrifices of a woman who set aside her future in order to better frame the futures of her children. Guy gave up a scholarship to Eastern Kentucky University when she became a mother at 16. It was no longer about her. It was about her son.

"I didn't go," she said. "I took care of Shelvin and it has turned out wonderful.

"He has truly been a blessing to me," Guy said. "Shelvin has been playing ball for over half of his life. To see where he is now from when he started..."

Her voice breaks off.

She did return to school, and is now a supervisor at Lexington Diagnostic Center.

Listening to Guy, it would appear she played a minor role in developing the polite, hardworking young man who has been richly praised by sportscasters throughout the NCAA Tournament.

"I am a firm believer in it takes a village to raise a child," Guy said, her voice firm and less tentative than when talking about herself. Many people have shared in the metamorphosis of her son: co-workers, her mother, a bevy of coaches and especially Guy's grandmother Christine Guy, she said.

"I couldn't have done it without her," she said. "She didn't get to see him graduate, but I know she is smiling down on him now."

Guy said she expected anyone around Shelvin to correct him as he was growing up. That's old school, but if it isn't broken it shouldn't be fixed.

I heard she benched him one time, despite pleas from her son and his coaches, because he earned a C at midterm. Shelvin was in middle school and traveling to Louisville with Bryan Station for a game, when his midterm grades arrived in the mail.

"I told him he could not play in that game, and if he did he'd better make it memorable because it would be his last game," Guy said. "He kept repeating 'but Momma, I'm still passing.'"

She told him she knew that he was smarter than the C he'd earned. She told him that a C is "just as close to the bottom as it is to the top" and that average was not an option for him.

Old school.

When her son headed to Indianapolis for college three years ago, it was heartbreaking, but she was comforted by the family vibe she received from the Butler coaching staff. It dulled the hurt of the University of Kentucky courting her son only as an afterthought.

Guy now concentrates her attention on her daughters: Sierra, 16, who attends Bryan Station, and Keionna, 12, at Winburn Middle School. Sierra will be inducted into the National Honor Society soon.

How did she raise successful children when there is an abundance of statistics painting dismal pictures of children born to teen mothers?

"The difference is support," Guy said, the firm tone returning. "I consider Shelvin my best friend. He knows I am the parent but we can talk about anything.

"I listen to rap music and play video games. I want to know what my children are experiencing," she said.

Last year, when Butler was trying to win the West Regionals in Utah, Guy flew to Salt Lake City with a ticket provided by her employer. It was her first flight and while it may not be her last venture into air travel, it won't be repeated any time soon.

Airfare and hotel would cost her about $1,700 and she just doesn't have that kind of money. Plus, "I am afraid of flying," she said.

This time, she and her cousin will share the driving to Houston for the Final Four so Shelvin can have family there to watch him play.

With so much talk about his skills, will Shelvin go pro instead of playing his senior year at Butler? I asked.

Guy said that was up to him.

"He has the starring role. I am just the supporting cast," she said.

What does she want us to know about Shelvin?

"Shelvin is a down-to-earth and lovable type of guy who is following his dream," Guy said. "He tells me all the time that his dreams are going to come true."

Reach Merlene Davis at (859) 231-3218 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3218, or mdavis1@herald-leader.com.

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