Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Duke’s Nolan Smith and Butler’s Shelvin Mack matched up twice during their college careers.
Smith and the Blue Devils came out on top on both occasions, once in the 2010 NCAA championship game and again earlier this season during a game at the Izod Center in New Jersey.
“He beat me twice, but I think I got him today,” Mack said after the two matched up during three-on-three drills in a workout with the Knicks that was closed to the media.
New York owns the No. 17 pick in the June 23 NBA Draft and likely will have better options than Smith or Mack, point guards who are projected as second-round picks by DraftExpress.com.
Yet that doesn’t stop both players from dreaming of running the point for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Mack knows Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups through USA Basketball and said he’d love the opportunity to be Billups’s understudy in the pros.
“I talk to Chauncey a lot throughout the season and the draft process,” said Mack, who led Butler to back-to-back NCAA finals berths. “He’s a mentor to me. I think it would be a great opportunity to learn from him.”
Mack averaged 16 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a junior, but went 4 for 15 for 13 points in the NCAA championship game loss to UConn in Houston. It was the second straight time that the Horizon League power lost in the NCAA title game.
“I think I won 87 games in three years,” Mack said. “My situation is different. I wouldn’t change it for anything else. I wouldn’t change it for stats. I had an opportunity that a lot of people wish they had, to play in two national champs.
“The teams that actually do their research understand what qualities I bring to a team.”
Mack has already worked out for the Utah Jazz, the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs and the Charlotte Bobcats. This week he will see the Nets and the Washington Wizards.
While Mack never won an NCAA championship, Smith captured one his junior year before Duke was upset by Arizona in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The 6-2 guard is considered a tweener, but had a tremendous season in which he averaged 20.6 points and 5.1 assists after freshman point guard Kyrie Irving of New Jersey — the projected No. 1 pick in the draft — went down with a toe injury against Butler Dec. 8.
Smith said he’s trying to show pro scouts that “I can continue to be a solid point guard and a good point guard in the NBA. I showed it when Kyrie was out this year, but continue to show that I can be a good point guard for a team.”
Smith recently finished workouts with the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, and has the Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers coming up.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski coached Team USA to a gold medal in 2010, and Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was an assistant on that team.
Because of their relationship, Smith believes he’s familiar with D’Antoni’s speedball system.
“Coach and him talk all the time,” Smith said. “He would also use Coach D’Antoni’s name in our practices when we’re trying to run our type of offense and try to get up and down and play and try to score points.”
The Knicks on Tuesday will work out Norris Cole, Gary Flowers, Josh Harrellson, Demetri McCamey, Malcolm Thomas & Nicola Vucevic
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.