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More minutes should mean many more points for Texas sophomore SF Tevin Mack

Tevin Mack’s step forward may be the most noticeable among all Longhorns

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Texas A&M vs Texas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Tevin Mack could have spent much of his freshman season on the hardwood at VCU, but things didn’t play out the way the former four-star prospect initially anticipated. Rather, Shaka Smart, who signed Mack to VCU’s 2015 class, departed for the Lone Star State and so, too, did Mack after signing with Smart once again—this time at Texas. Consequently, the South Carolina product joined a rotation abundant with veterans and All-Big 12 caliber contributors and spent 26.7 minutes per game as a spectator.

One offseason and six departures later, Mack is primed for a significantly larger role in a system he’s an ideal fit in.

Though the sample size is exceptionally small, there’s evidence of Mack’s offensive upside when provided considerable minutes as a freshman. In the six games Mack played at least 20 minutes, the 6’7 wing averaged 13.8 points; connecting on 44 percent of his shots, including 41 percent from the perimeter (19-46). Per 40 minutes, Mack’s scoring efforts increase to 15.3, along with six rebounds and only 1.6 turnovers.

As a freshman, though, Mack reaching 40 minutes on the hardwood often required numerous outings, as he played no more than 10 minutes in 12 of Texas’ 33 games—never scoring more than five points.

Now a sophomore, it’s unlikely Mack spends only 10 or fewer minutes on the court in any game throughout the season, and for good reason.

During his only preseason sighting—the Texas Tip-Off—Mack was arguably the best Longhorn on the court during an intrasquad scrimmage that always had 10 ‘Horns on the floor at all times. His shooting stroke looked as pure and confident as ever and was complimented by a couple floaters around the rim to make for a 7-for-8 shooting performance, including 2-for-2 from deep.

Considering his freshman numbers, though, this efficiency should be both, taken as a sign of tremendous development—mental and physical alike after he added 10 pounds over the offseason—along with a grain of salt. 2015-16 saw Mack’s true shooting percentage (.421) and effective field goal percentage (.386) serve as the worse mark among Texas’ major contributors. And while Mack often asserted himself as a perimeter threat, only 14.2 percent of his shots came at the rim—the lowest effort on the team—where he made only 28 percent of his attempts (7-of-25). If the Texas Tip-Off were any indication, though, along with the additional 10 pounds Mack has added, there’s reason to expect a significant uptick in efficiency around the rim.

What may not change much is how often Mack heaves from the perimeter.

As a freshman, 65 percent of Mack’s 176 shot attempts were 3-pointers. Only 25 percent of his eight Texas Tip-Off attempts came from the perimeter, which is obviously a minute sample size, but there was some evidence that he looked to score in multiple ways, and did so successfully.

While maintaining the efficiency and offensive impact he displayed in the TTO will be easier said than done, it may have served as an early glimpse of the common contributions the sophomore version of Mack will provide. Despite having only one season—mostly as a spectator—under his belt, Mack became a veteran Longhorn almost overnight. Along with his minutes likely doubling, he’ll have much more offensive freedom and opportunities than he did as a freshman, where his reps often came as a third or fourth offensive option, at best. At times, it seemed Mack forced things just to try and get into the flow or take full advantage of is minutes as a freshman, but that won’t be necessary as a sophomore. A fair share of Texas’ offense may run directly through Mack and his on-court demeanor should reflect the increased freedom of opportunities.

Additionally, the jump from his freshman 210-pound mark to 220 pounds should allow Mack to slide into a small ball power forward role at times, which has been a staple of Smart-coached teams with his debut at Texas being the exception due to an abundance of size. That won’t be the case in 2016-17, and in a offense that will need as many capable scorers to replace all that was lost, Mack could become a nightly mismatch depending on how Smart utilizes what may be Texas’ most improved player.

The offensive opportunities will be there. The talent has been there. With more minutes, Mack may be in store for many more points as a sophomore and after losing six contributors from last season, the ‘Horns will need every bit of them.