New Texas Longhorns head coach Shaka Smart secured his first signature moment in burnt orange by securing a commitment from Columbia (S.C.) Dreher small forward Tevin Mack during a ceremony on Tuesday.
Mack wasted little time during his ceremony in announcing his decision, keeping it short and simple:
The consensus four-star prospect who originally signed with Smart at VCU narrowed his list to Texas, Georgia, and Clemson in the days before his decision. Kansas had also been in the mix, but never received a visit and took a commitment from former SMU pledge LaGerald Vick.
Following Smart's departure, the Rams granted Mack his release, which resulted in another unofficial visit to Georgia -- at least his 10th trip to Athens -- and then another unofficial visit to Austin, his first.
Though the 6'6, 185-pounder didn't reveal much about his visit in the immediate aftermath of his trip to Austin from May 8-11, he did share a few thoughts with midlandhssports.com:
The excitement in Mack's voice was apparent as he told us of the "unbelievable place" he found the UT campus to be. Among the highlights of his trip was spending time with head football coach (and former Columbia resident) Charlie Strong, hanging with basketball coach Shaka Smart as he threw out the first pitch at a Lady Longhorns softball game, and being able to experience campus life while school was in session.
Clearly, the visit made enough of an impact for Texas to secure a commitment from Mack, who will not be able to sign a National Letter of Intent, having already signed one with VCU during the early period. Instead, he will sign a financial aid agreement ahead of his likely June enrollment.
Mack explained his decision to Scout:
"I chose them because I signed to play for coach Smart in the beginning," Mack said. "I wanted to stay with him and follow him and stick with the same plan. It feels like a great fit."
"I feel like it's a better opportunity actually," he added. "I think it's a blessing from God. That was one of the my favorite programs from the beginning."
Ranked as the No. 54 prospect overall, the No. 9 small forward, and the No. 2 player in South Carolina, Mack held 17 offers during his recruitment.
Though he's classified as a small forward, he considers himself a shooting guard. Either way, Mack is the type of lengthy wing with excellent athleticism who is a perfect fit in the pressing defense that Smart prefers to run. Future150.com believes that Mack needs to improve his shooting from long distance, from mid range, and off the dribble, but he's not incapable in those areas, a key requirement for Smart when he assesses prospects. For his long-term projections, the fluidity, high release, and apparent purity of his shot bodes well for improvement in that area with practice.
Here's an evaluation from a camp last summer:
NBA Top 100 Camp: (June 18th-21st, 2014) The 6-foot-6 wing is an absolutely lethal scorer, and he has shown that with his performance so far at camp. He has excellent body control and finishes well around the rim. He also has gained upper body strength and is effective posting up smaller defenders as well.
Since Smart wants to get out in transition after defensive rebounds and forced turnovers, the ability to get to the wing and finish is also a key requirement for his scheme. And, in fact, Smart spends a lot of time focusing on that ability in the one-on-one drills he uses in practice. As Mack adds weight to his rather lanky frame, his ability to post up and finish through contact should also improve.
Mack's primary competition for playing time in 2015-16 will be sophomore Jordan Barnett, who wasn't ranked nearly as highly as Mack coming out of high school last year, but is probably a more refined scorer at this point. However, Barnett struggled with his shot in hitting only 33% from the field and only played more than 10 minutes three times in conference play.
So unless Barnett can improve his scoring from last season or become a lock-down defender, Mack should be able to find playing time because of hi superior athleticism and slashing ability.
With the new head coach securing his first commitment in Mack's significant pledge, it feels as if the Shaka Smart era has truly begun.