The uber-successful will tell you: To reach the top, sometimes you have to be ruthless and leave old friends behind.
In a bid to take his basketball career to the highest level, Shelvin Mack decided some three months ago to cut out a long-time companion.
Goodbye, french fries.
"I've got a dietitian here at school, and I'm trying to cut out fried foods," the Butler University and former Bryan Station High hoops standout said Sunday. "I haven't eaten french fries in three months now."
You might say the Shelvin Mack 3.0 we will see Tuesday night when Butler and Louisville play the first regular season men's basketball game in the KFC Yum Center will be a streamlined version of what was an already successful product.
Mack is some 12 pounds lighter than he was a year ago as a sophomore when, at 215 pounds, he was one of the stars of Butler's unlikely run to the NCAA championship game.
"I feel more explosive," Mack said.
When the nation last saw Mack and his Bulldogs teammates, they were the valiant but vanquished NCAA runners-up, beaten 61-59 by lordly Duke after Butler star Gordon Hayward's half-court buzzer beater barely missed.
Though he was oh, so close to being part of the greatest Cinderella championship in college basketball history, Mack said he did not spend the summer tormented by what could have been.
"I'm proud of what we did," he said. "I felt like we gave everything we could give."
Mack said he has watched only "bits and pieces" of the championship game, not the whole thing.
Even with the heartbreak at the end, the 2010 NCAA Tournament built a national name for Mack. The 6-foot-3 guard scored in double figures in all six Butler tourney games. He was named to the all-tournament teams for both the West Region and the Final Four.
Over the summer, Mack's profile was enhanced even more when he was included among select college players who got to practice against the NBA stars who comprised the U.S. National Team.
During the practices, Rajon Rondo and Chauncey Billups took an interest in Mack.
Before the Boston Celtics' Rondo was the last person left off the U.S. National Team, Mack said the former Louisville Eastern High School and University of Kentucky standout invited him to hang out together.
"We sort of bonded," Mack said. "We're both from Kentucky, and we both lost in the championship last year on our levels."
Mack's body build and game have sometimes been likened to Billups. The Denver Nuggets star gave him advice on how to fine tune his game, Mack said.
"Can't give away my new secrets," Mack said with a laugh.
By the end of the national team's camp, Mack had acquitted himself so well that Golden State Warriors standout Stephen Curry told Sports Illustrated that "I told (Mack) to enjoy this next year in college, because I'm pretty sure it will be his last."
After his summer play, the name "Shelvin Mack" has begun popping up in the first round of 2011 NBA mock drafts. It is pretty heady stuff for a player who, until fairly late in his senior season at Bryan Station, wasn't recruited all that ardently.
"It's a great honor to be mentioned like that," Mack said, "but I can't really even focus on that. There's so much that can happen this year, stuff I can't control. I need to concentrate on what I'm doing for Butler and do what I can to help my team."
If Hayward had not chosen to put his name in the NBA Draft, it's likely Butler would have been ranked in the pre-season national top five, maybe even No. 1.
Rather than return for his junior year, the forward was the No. 9 overall pick by Utah.
"If you asked every player playing college basketball if they had a chance to be a top 10 pick what they would do, they'd all do what he did," Mack said. "That's why we're all playing. So there's no way to be mad at him."
As it is, Butler has three starters back from the team that made magic a year ago. Along with Mack, guard Ronald Nored and big man Matt Howard return.
Mack said he and his teammates are pumped to be one of the opening night acts in Louisville's new downtown arena.
With so much at stake for him this winter, Mack said he's at peace, more or less, with having to cut loose an old friend.
Goodbye, french fries.
"It's not killing me, but I do miss them," he said. "But you have to do what you can to get to the highest level."