Mack: Stevens will succeed because he can relate

Mack: Stevens will succeed because he can relate
December 31, 2013, 6:15 pm
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BOSTON -- Hawks guard and Butler product Shelvin Mack texts with his old college coach Brad Stevens about once a week, checking in on the man who had a hand in helping him develop from mid-major college recruit into an NBA talent.
 
Mack visited Boston with the Hawks on New Year's Eve, beating Stevens' new team in a matinee, 92-91. Before the game, though, Mack explained why he thought the first-year Celtics coach would be a success in the NBA.

"He's young so he understands the things people are going through," Mack said. "He can relate to some of his players, being a few years older than them. Especially like spending time with your family over the holidays -- little stuff like that helps players out a lot getting you more comfortable with him."

When Mack was at Butler under Stevens from 2008-11 before leaving school early to enter into the NBA Draft, he said he learned a great deal about what it takes to become a better player and a better person.
 
"He's helped me as a player, but he also helped me as an individual," Mack said. "[He taught me] that it's a daily process, and take one day at a time. I think that's helped me a lot in my NBA career and just my life in general."
 
Stevens admitted that when Mack came to Butler, the coaching staff at the school didn't immediately think they had a future NBA player on their hands.
 
"When we first got him, no," Stevens said. "I didn't think he was a point at that time. I thought he was a strong two-three that would be a good college player. The thing that Shelvin has going for him, when you talk to his teachers, his principals at his school, whoever you talked to, they glowed about him. He's an outstanding person, ultimate gym rat, great worker. That's what led him here. He spent a lot of nights late at night in Hinkle Fieldhouse. He was a gym rat.
 
"It's interesting. I said this yesterday, his work ethic allowed him to become not only a better player in crunch time and a better player when it all mattered. The way he's playing now, I'm so thrilled for him. I don't like playing against him ever, but I'm really thrilled for him."
 
Mack finished with 5 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in Atlanta's come-from-behind win over the Celtics. He's a different player than the one that left Butler in 2011, Stevens said.
 
"He's such a better ball handler," Stevens explained. "His passing in small spaces is really outstanding. It's a credit to [the Hawks] program. It's a credit to his work ethic. He's a guy that everybody in the NBA knows already three years in what kind of a team guy he is, that's a given. And to add to that skill set where he was a scorer first coming out of college to become more of a consummate point guard has really added to his game."

Mack was taken 34th overall in the 2011 draft by the Magic. He was waived the next year and drafted by the Maine Red Claws of the NBADL. For more than a year, he bounced back and forth between Maine and the rosters of the Wizards and Sixers. After signing a 10-day deal with the Hawks in March of this year, he's stuck. He's now signed for the remainder of the season and is a regular off the bench.
 
As he started his college career with Stevens, even Mack wasn't convinced he would ever be NBA-ready. After two national title game appearances in college, some time in Team USA's program, and an all-important D-League stint, he's made it.
 
"Everyone dreams to play in the NBA," he said. "It's a long process but I was going through those steps and it came closer to becoming a reality so it made it an easy decision for me [to leave college]."
Stevens emphasized the fact that Mack made the most of his time in the D-League, something Stevens suggested Rajon Rondo might do to get in shape before returning to the floor for the Celtics.
 
Mack is an example of "what the D-League with the right attitude can do," Stevens said.
 
"You talk to those guys in Maine about him, and they loved him. When he went there, they loved him. When he went there, he didn't act like that was not his level. He went there and tried to get better and improve. That's what the great benefit of that is. You see that more and more with a lot of guys that were first-round picks or second-round picks, and I think that will just continue. I think if guys go in with the right mindset and right attitude about it, it can really jumpstart their careers and it has for Shelvin."