NEW YORK -- Butler's
But Mack was not, in any real sense, getting beaten up by the pros. He said he ran into Gordon while attacking the ex-Indiana phenom off the dribble, and in the brief portion of last Thursday's workout that was open to the media, we saw Mack blow by Gordon in a one-on-one situation for a layup. Mack also left an impression on Curry, who last faced the Bulldogs as a Davidson junior in February 2009. While Butler won that game, 75-63, it was not one of Mack's best freshman-year performances. He shot 3-for-11 from the field and finished with nine points. Curry said he feels that Mack, who averaged 14.1 points and shot 39.1 percent from three-point range as a sophomore, has progressed to the extent that he now has the "total package" of point-guard skills, with the ability to orchestrate offense and shoot from long range.
When I asked Curry if he'd given Mack any basketball advice, the former mid-major darling said something I didn't expect: "I told [Mack] to enjoy this next year in college, because I'm pretty sure it'll be his last. He won't say it, but it probably is."
These USA Basketball experiences can sometimes redefine the way we think about player -- especially a Butler player. Last summer, Mack and former Bulldogs teammate
This summer, it was Mack's turn to alter perceptions in a national-team setting. He was hardly an unknown after playing a key role in Butler's magical run through the NCAA tournament, but there wasn't any chatter in April about him jumping early into the NBA draft. His reputation seemed to be that of a good
Things have changed by mid-August. Mack's showings against USA Basketball's NBA squad (as well as his play at the LeBron James Skills Academy and Adidas Nations) put him in the discussion for the 2011 draft, which is extremely light on point guards. While he's far from even a first-round lock, Mack is beginning to make NBA scouts believe he has the right combination of size (he's 6-foot-3), toughness and skills to play point at the next level, despite the fact that he's a combo guard alongside
Curry wasn't the only NBA player who spoke highly of Mack. Nuggets veteran
I saw Mack get yelled at by U.S. select team coach
Wright said that when the U.S. select squad
"I didn't know much about [Mack] before this, because Butler wasn't in our [NCAA tournament] bracket, and I didn't get to watch them before the title game," Wright said. "But as soon as I saw him in Vegas, he was one of the guys that all the coaches said, 'Wow, this kid is really good.' "
Because the collegians' sole purpose in New York was to prepare the U.S. senior team for a scrimmage against China and an exhibition against France, Wright sometimes fed his point guards new sets on short notice to react to the NBA players' defense. Mack, he said, picked up everything extremely fast. "He's got an incredible basketball IQ," Wright said. "He's physically gifted, a great leader, he can shoot, finish at the rim and defend -- he can do it all."
The only thing Mack didn't do this summer, it seemed, was spend much time on Butler's campus in north Indianapolis. "I've only been there for about 20 days, total," he said, estimating that he'd spent more time at camps with Duke's Smith -- whom he guarded in the national title game -- than with other Bulldogs. When Mack does return to Indy full-time, though, his confidence should be sky-high. Butler is