Four years ago, the Dreher Blue Devils were struggling to keep their once successful boys basketball team relevant with a young roster
Then coach Jon Richards pegged freshman Tevin Mack as a kid with the leadership potential and court skills the Blue Devils could build around. But it was not the coach’s vote of confidence that let Mack know he was destined for success.
The youngster had arrived at Dreher with determination and self-assurance.
“Even in middle school, I always felt I was one of the best players ... just other people didn’t know it yet,” Mack said.
Never miss a local story.
In the years since, Mack has ascended the scouting charts to become one of the nation’s top 100 players in the 2015 recruiting class.
Heading into this summer, the rising senior was ranked No. 65 in the ESPN 100 and rated 22nd in the nation among shooting guards. He has scholarship offers from Virginia Commonwealth, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Houston, Clemson and Auburn. Wake Forest is the most recent program to offer, and it likely will not be the last.
Mack is traveling with his AAU team, the Carolina Wolves, this month. Wolves coach Major Williamson said Mack’s job has been to build his brand and “he comes to work ready to go every day.”
“The thing that he has to do is go out and really focus and understand that if he can defend the ball, the stuff on the other end of the court is easy,” Williamson said.
Mack is a bigger, stronger version of the player he was five months ago, when he led the Blue Devils to the third round of the Class 3A tournament. At 6-foot-6, 200 pounds, Mack never has had a problem getting his shots to fall from any range, but his offseason workouts have helped add power to his finish at the basket and he has become a more well-rounded player.
“Everybody knows I can score the ball well, that’s what I do the best, so I’m trying to focus on defense and rebounding and just being a more vocal leader,” said Mack, who also plays small forward.
“He’s rebounding really well, and going up to the NBA Top 100 camp was a big deal for him, and that really elevated his game,” Dreher coach Jeff DiBattisto said.
Being able to play with the nation’s top players, under the direction of Memphis Grizzlies player Beno Udrih, sharpened Mack’s game, but the most important improvement, he said, is not a skill.
“I’ve picked my motor up. I feel like I play way harder than I did during the (high school) season, and that’s going to make a big difference,” Mack said.
Recruiters let him know before this hectic three weeks of AAU tournaments began that an outstanding performance could result in new scholarship offers.
“I like the attention. I like it when there’s all eyes on me, and I think I play better when there a lot of coaches watching me. It gets me more ready and hyped to play,” he said.
Mack’s AAU season continues this week as the Wolves compete in the Under Armour Association finals, which wrap Sunday. He has one more AAU tournament afterward.
“Those are all good things for him to work on, that will ... will give us a better chance to be more successful as a group, and as he goes off to college, are going to be necessary to him being successful,” he said.
Despite averaging 23 points and seven rebounds per game and being named the Class 3A all-state player of the year as a junior, he could not push the team to the title game. With one more season to go, Mack is hoping his improved play will translate into more wins for the Blue Devils.
“I remember when I first started, the team wasn’t looking too good because it had just lost a bunch of seniors. I just tried to lead those guys the right away,” Mack said. “Even though I was pretty young and inexperienced, I wanted to play the best I could.”
With Williamson and DiBattisto spurring him on, Mack’s best is better than it ever was. But Mack’s transformation is far from complete.
“It’s always going to be an unfinished,” Williamson said. “Because you always have to be getting better every day, no matter what league you’re in.”