Most national caliber prospects emerge very early and frequently under the auspices of the underclass Nike circuit, but Tevin Mack followed a different path. At the Hoop Group Pitt tournament in April, 2013, Mack exploded onto the scene without any scholarship offers heading into his rising junior spring .
The 6-6 forward generated significant momentum in the ensuing months, gaining offers from Georgia, Virginia Tech, Houston, Miami-Ohio, Jacksonville and Stephen F. Austin. Sporting that diverse list, Mack’s progress clearly caught the eyes of coaches from around the country.
He hit the road again in 2014 with the Carolina Wolves, touring the Under Armour circuit and proving to be one of the company’s alpha dog rising seniors. Once again in Pittsburgh, Mack performed in impressive fashion. He entered the early summer with an offer from Clemson, East Carolina, Wake Forest, Mississippi State, Auburn and VCU, foreshadowing what was to follow.
He didn’t play his best ball at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, telling me there that, “I think camps are not really for me overall.” Given that he has been such a determined team player, an individual camp environment didn’t cater to his liking.
But when playing for the Wolves, Mack always showed why he belonged among the top 100. His zeal for the game impressed coaches and scouts alike, and many awaited his college decision eagerly.
He played his hand close to the vest and announced in mid-November, opting for Smart’s Rams.
Mack is a very athletic utility scorer. The word “utility” actually shows up in my notes repeatedly, a testament to the number of plays he makes outside the confines of traditional roles. He snares loose balls, cleans up teammates’ messes on both ends of the court, hustles for tips and deflections, and generally finishes strongly around the rim.
|In pressure, fullcourt defense, Mack could become a terror|
His numbers for the Wolves this year were fantastic. He averaged 22 points per game along with six rebounds, solid for a 6-6 wing. He consistently drew contact and earned trips to the free throw line, shooting 84 attempts in just 11 games. He also added blocks and steals thanks to his effort and athleticism.
I wrote recently that Virginia Tech signee Chris Clarke was a college coaches’ favorite based on his competitive style; well, Mack doesn’t rank too far behind. (Interestingly, both of those players will make their college homes in Virginia.)
Mack shines in a fullcourt setting and is a terrific fit for VCU’s hard-charging playing style. He’s quick, explosive and also possesses a wiry strength that will enable him to become a powerhouse combo forward-type at the next level. Defensively, he should be able to guard most opponents at either power forward or wing forward, and matched against modern, stretch forwards, he should shine.
The more the coaching staff is able to get him uptempo, making plays at both ends, the better he’ll be. Mack needs time to develop some other areas of his game, but put him in open space and he competes with equal parts aggression and joy.
Mack is far more prolific than he is efficient. It’s a common issue for utility players, as they benefit more from freelance than structure. He shot just 44 percent from the field for the Wolves — and he’s far too gifted for that — and only 32 percent on threes.
He actually isn’t a bad shooter, he just forces some long bombs that are too deep or contested. Sharpening his shot selection will help. His free throw shooting — clearly a key to his game — appears more problematic. Of the 84 foul shot attempts I cited above, Mack converted only 50 for just under 60 percent.
He’s also a so-so ballhandler for the wing and needs to tighten up his left hand dribble, in particular.
Mack will step in at VCU his freshman season and immediately stand out as one of the top athletes on the squad. Whether that translates into a starting spot remains to be seen, but he’s a cut above the average A-10 recruit and that fact should become evident from day one.
He’s likely to produce solid stats due to his natural physical advantages, but beyond that he possesses the skill level to step his game up a notch as he gains strength and experience. Mack appears to have a professional future for some level, and in the meantime he’ll help VCU remain a pacesetter in the A-10.