By now, you’ve likely heard the news that top-10 SF Tevin Mack is a Texas Longhorn after following the coach he committed to at VCU to the 40 Acres in Austin. Mack’s commitment served as the first official recruiting victory of Shaka Smart’s young tenure at Texas and despite the Longhorns already having a staggeringly stacked roster that would fare just fine without Mack, adding the lethal scorer’s presence will only help the Horns in one clear area of weakness: points from the perimeter.
For a multitude of reasons, reeling in Mack was the cherry on top of a rather impressive recruiting class, which features three top-50 prospects. At 6-7, Mack will immediately provide an asset none of the other options on the perimeter can: size. Of the seven other wing options who are expected to see time for the Longhorns next season, only one exceeds 6-3, which happens to be 6-6 forward Jordan Barnett, whom saw very limited action as a freshman and watched entirely from the sidelines in 11 of the 21 games after conference play kicked off. When you consider the defensive disadvantage that’s posed with Texas’ lack of length with the 5-11 Javan Felix, 6-1 Kendal Yancy and Holland, who happens to be the Longhorns most reliable perimeter defender at only 6-2, having Mack’s outstretched arms will provide an upgrade when defending the numerous explosive scoring guards Texas will see next season.
In addition to his natural length, Mack’s aggressive on-ball defense is widely considered as one of the strengths of his game. This should fill a key void the Longhorns struggled with in 2014-15. Last season, Texas averaged a mere 3.8 steals per game. Not only is that bad for a Texas team with the talent this one has available, but it was one of the absolute worst in the entire nation, ranking 348th out of 351 programs. Mack is a considerable athlete, which will aid in him in likely becoming Texas’ second most imposing perimeter defender, alongside Holland. Assuming Smart implements the press as early and often as we expect, this should serve as an upgrade for Texas forcing turnovers and ultimately, finding easy baskets on a team that scored only 67.9 points per game in 2014-15, good for 164th in the NCAA.
As for Mack’s offense, what he’s able to bring to the table is completely up in the air and dependent on his minutes and opportunities that will surely be shared with a plethora of more experienced options. Mack’s highest praise has been his scoring ability, where he can provide points in bunches from multiple levels of the floor. He excels in transition and as a slasher attacking the rim, which is something Texas desperately lacked at times last season when the guards far-too-often stood around on the perimeter as the shot clock dwindled.
Mack hasn’t proven to be a lethal knockdown shooter from deep just yet and he isn’t the most consistent in from mid-range, but he’s also far from incapable of scoring from those areas. There isn’t a single player on the Longhorns roster with the ability to consistently score from each level, so this isn’t something that should do much to hinder Mack’s effectiveness.
What will likely play out as the most telling factor in how much offensive freedom and responsibility Mack receives as a freshman will be based off the performance of his teammates. As I mentioned earlier, Texas will have a exceptionally deep roster next season. With that, there’s the given that guys like Isaiah Taylor, Felix, Cameron Ridley, Yancy and Holland are all going to get their fair share of shots. The same goes for Connor Lammert and the other two incoming freshman with a proven ability to score in bunches. Factor in Maryland transfer Shaquille Cleare, Barnett and Prince Ibeh and you have a roster that will more than likely be void of one player heaving the ball 12-14 times per game, especially as a freshman in a crowded backcourt.
To become a relied upon weapon on the wing, Mack will have to show early on in the season how valuable he can be during the Longhorns’ non-conference slate, which will have some quality competition of its own; similar to the same opportunity Barnett saw as a freshman and failed to capitalize on. But ultimately, there's no reason to expect big things from Mack just yet. It would be an extreme long-shot to call Mack a one-year player in Austin and being able to have the skill-set he does with a coach like Shaka Smart and a roster that he can develop under and avoid being thrown into the fire from day one, Mack will have plenty of time to grow into a tremendous player for the Longhorns over the next few years.