High School Basketball

Mack ready to put his mark on NCAA tourney

Whether Shelvin Mack had the fortitude it takes to become a basketball standout was tested early.

The current Butler University and former Bryan Station High standout was 5 when his mom looked out the back window while washing dishes and saw something that gave her a fright.

Victoria Guy's little boy was standing on a chair poised to take a leap so he could try and dunk a basketball on a 7-foot goal that his uncle had mounted on the side of a deck.

Shelvin, don't you do that! Guy remembers yelling.

Which didn't slow young Shelvin's launch even one iota.

The dunk attempt ended with Shelvin stuck and hanging in the net.

By his teeth.

"We had to take the goal down," Guy recalled this week. "We couldn't get him loose from the net (otherwise). We had to rush him to UK to get a root canal."

Suffice to say, nothing apt to happen in the coming NCAA Tournament figures to test Mack like that.

Butler's 6-foot-3 sophomore guard is one of the standouts on one of the more intriguing teams that will vie for the national title.

A school not unaccustomed to donning the glass slipper in March, Butler (28-4, both regular-season and tournament champion of the Horizon League) is dreaming of making an underdog run to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

Which, of course, is the city where the school is located.

"It would be pretty cool," Mack said Wednesday of making a Final Four appearance into a Butler home game, "but, really, we don't even think about that. We've just got to be ready for each game and try to go as far as we can."

In his second year playing for boy-wonder coach Brad Stevens (age 33, looks 23), Mack is averaging 13.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals a game.

In 11 different games, Mack has been Butler's leading scorer. Included were a 23-point performance in a Bracket Buster victory over a quality Siena team and a 21-point game in what, at the time, seemed like a good win over UCLA.

Perhaps most impressively for a guy never known as a pure jump shooter in his high school days, Mack raised his field-goal percentage seven points (to 46) and his three-point percentage five points (to 37.2) from his (very good) freshman year.

In Butler's 70-45 pasting of Wright State in Tuesday's Horizon tourney title game, Mack set the tone by draining four treys and scoring 14 points in the first half.

"I've got a lot of confidence in my shot right now," Mack said.

The Lexington product attributes much of the growth in his game this season to a summer filled with international competition.

Along with his buddy, Kentucky forward Darius Miller, Mack was a member of the United States Under-19 men's basketball team that won a world championship gold medal in New Zealand.

When he got back from visiting the Kiwis, Mack joined Butler for a tour of Italy.

"We went to the (Roman) Coliseum. We went to Florence," Mack said. "We saw a lot of great artwork. It was a good trip."

What about the food, Shelvin? Sampling authentic Italian food must've rocked?

"I didn't like it. I tried lasagna and pizza, I just didn't like the Italian style (of cooking). I'd rather go to Fazoli's," Mack said of the Lexington-based Italian food chain.

Lest he get homesick for other aspects of life in his hometown, Mack says he and UK's Miller talk and/or text "almost every day. He's one of my best friends."

Mack's stellar play at Butler so far has confirmed that SEC schools such as Tennessee and Kentucky that were late entering the recruiting fray for the former Bryan Station star should have gotten there earlier.

A season ago, Mack ended his freshman year by scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds as Butler fell to SEC regular-season champion LSU 75-71 in the NCAA Tourney first round.

"People ask me if I regret not going to a bigger school," Mack said. "And I don't. I wanted to go someplace where I could play right away, not have to wait."

Now, Mack is so comfortable in Indy, his Mom says that when she recently made a visit to her son at Butler, he asked her to confirm the truth of a wild-sounding story he had told some buddies.

"So I told them when he was little, he really did hang himself by the teeth trying to dunk," Victoria Guy said with a laugh.

From the start, you might say basketball has been a game Shelvin Mack could really get his teeth into.

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