Shelvin Mack’s unknown legacy

WESLEY BRYANT | SPORTS COLUMNIST

Basketball means a lot to this campus, and we are all familiar with Butler’s back-to-back Cinderella runs to the Final Four.

Gordon Hayward is and will always be the greatest to put on a Bulldog uniform, but there is one player that seems to hide in his shadow – Shelvin Mack.

If it weren’t for Mack, the Bulldogs would never have made it back to the Final Four a second time. Credit is long overdue for what he contributed then and what he does today with the Atlanta Hawks.     

Mack’s sophomore year proved to be one of the most important years of our school’s basketball history. Prior to becoming a Big East team, we typically had a weak strength of schedule in the Horizon League. It was somewhat of a miracle that we even made the NCAA tournament that year, let alone making it to the Final Four.

Butler only won one out of four games against ranked teams, and its tournament hopes weren’t looking bright. But the Bulldogs won the Horizon League tournament securing a spot in the Big Dance. Mack led the Dawgs in scoring (14.0 PPG) and with his willingness to pass.

Being in the weak Horizon League really showed against ranked teams in the regular season, but when it mattered most, the Dawgs went beyond expectations. The well-known 2010 run to the final four was heavily focused on Hayward’s performance. However, Mack wasn’t far off in leading the team in NCAA tournament scoring, with 15.3 PPG to Hayward’s 15.8.

Unfortunately, after losing to Duke University, the Bulldogs took another hit when Hayward declared for the NBA Draft. Who would the team look to after that? The Mack Attack.

Mack’s junior year really proved he was the leader of the team. After an outstanding sophomore season, he was eligible to declare for the draft and was a late first-round to early second-round prospect at the time. Instead, he gave Butler another shot at a title.

Furthermore, if Mack was nervous about leading a team into the NCAA tournament, it wasn’t evident through his performances. He dropped 30 points as Butler stunned the No. 1-seeded University of Pittsburgh in the Round of 32.

Even in the midst of winning, Mack had his fair share of injuries. When it came time to face No. 2-seeded Florida, Mack played through pain after rolling his left ankle in the first half, according to ESPN.com. The game went into overtime and Mack finished with 27 as he drained a three to secure the lead.

While Mack made history by doing it “the Butler Way” and bringing them one win away again from a championship, the University of Connecticut was a very difficult opponent.

Mack went onto get drafted by the Washington Wizards in the second round of the 2011 draft. His career in the pros wouldn’t compare to his collegiate days.

However, even though he was released by the Wizards and was sent to the NBA-D League, he never gave up. The Atlanta Hawks signed him to a non-guaranteed deal around playoff time in 2014. He then proved himself worthy of a guaranteed deal after a 20-point playoff performance against the Pacers.

He has and will continue to thrive if the Hawks keep on giving him quality minutes this season. In 13 minutes per game, Mack is averaging 4.5 and 2.8 assists per game behind All-Star point guard Jeff Teague.

Mack was a key factor in the Hawks’ win against the Cavaliers back in December, scoring 24 points on 6-of-6 three-point shooting.

When it’s all said and done, if you really think about it, Shelvin Mack is a perfect representation of the “Butler Way”.

He showed commitment to Butler’s program by believing they were good enough for another title run. He denied selfishness by taking a backseat to Hayward in order to win. He accepted his placement in the D-League, yet sought constant improvement, which eventually got him promoted and signed to a guaranteed NBA contract. 

I think credit is long overdue for Shelvin Mack. I am proud that he went to my school.

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