Washington Wizards rookie Shelvin Mack was born in Lexington, Ky., but the 6'3″ point guard returned to his home away from home on Thursday when the Wizards visited the Indiana Pacers.
Before being selected by Washington as the No. 34 overall pick, Mack starred at Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind., where he helped lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back Final Fours.
In front of family, friends, and even a few high school coaches, Mack scored two points, hauled down a pair of rebounds and dished out four assists in the Wizards 93-89 loss to Indiana.
"It was especially good to be able to come back home after the things my teammates and I did at Butler," Mack said following the game. "It was great to come home and get a great ovation when I came in the game."
Mack has played in all but three games this season for the Wizards, seeing about 12 minutes of action per contest.
Despite his lack of experience at the NBA level, interim head coach Randy Wittman has confidence in his young point guard.
"I'm throwing him out there in the midst of great players," Wittman said. "He's working at it and making strides, but he has to keep working."
Wizards starting point guard John Wall, the No. 1 selection in the 2010 NBA Draft, has been working with Mack and helping the rookie learn the ropes.
"He knows the game—he just doesn't know when to be aggressive and when not to," Wall said. "That's what I'm here for. We've been going over a lot of stuff together. I'm kind of like his mentor."
Wall has taken special notice of Mack's attention to detail and work ethic.
"He's always one of the first guys in to practice," Wall said after the loss. "He's a guy that's in there every day wanting to get better. He's a born winner, so it's tough for him to lose these games."
Within a two-year period between 2009 and 2011, Mack won a gold medal as captain of the USA U19 World Championship team and helped lead Butler to two national runner-up finishes.
Zach Hahn, one of Mack's teammates at Butler, was on hand for Mack's homecoming and spoke highly of the rookie guard's character on and off the court.
"Shelvin was a great teammate," Hahn said. "He could have had a big head and been all about himself, but he's the most caring guy. He's going to be that same way in the NBA and eventually develop into a leader."
So, while Mack has caught the attention of teammates and coaches as a hard working player with plenty of potential, his focus remains on the team and helping reverse the Wizards' fortunes.
"We've had a lot of ups and downs," Mack said, commenting on Washington's 12-40 record. "We've got to stay positive and keep improving."
-- by Lance Rinker '13