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.
Despite Rutgers’ Struggles, Myles Mack Shines in Big 10
BY JEREMY FUCHS
Photo Credit: USA Today
PISCATAWAY, N.J. —Rutgers’ debut season in the Big Ten has been uneven, albeit better and more competitive than most expected.
Despite the 2-5 start in conference, one thing is clear: Myles Mack can play with the big boys.
The senior guard from Paterson is having a stellar senior season to cap off what has been a sterling career for the Scarlet Knights (10-10). Playing a heavy load of 36 minutes a game, Mack is averaging 14.7 points, 46 assists and 4.5 assists The assists and rebound numbers are career-highs.
In Big Ten play, Mack has been even better, averaging 16.2 points per game, which is seventh in the conference, and four assists, which is tied for fourth. He is also playing 37.7 minutes a game, the most in the Big 10.
Against a undermanned Michigan team playing without star junior guard Caris LeVert, Mack scored 15 points in 39 minutes as the Scarlet Knights lost, 54-50.
Asked why it was hard to get Mack rest, coach Eddie Jordan made it simple.
“Cause he’s so good,” Jordan said.
For his part, Mack isn’t worried about playing too much.
“I’m really in shape, so it’s not really a big factor for me,” Mack said. “They try to wear us down a lot. Every team is going to try and wear us down.”
This wasn’t Mack’s best game. He was 4-11 from the floor and 3-9 from beyond the arc. Despite that, he was still the game’s leading scorer.
“The zone in the second half, we knew it was coming,” Mack said. “They were shading to my side. I wasn’t getting open looks.”
Even with Michigan doing everything they could to stop him, Mack was impressive with his play without the ball. He grabbed a eight rebounds, which tied a career-high and dished out two dimes, including a nice pass off a drive to D.J. Foreman, who finished with a slam.
“Everybody focuses on Myles,” Jordan said after the game. “He’s done a wonderful, wonderful job in his role for us, keeping us organized. He’s patient, he’s not forcing things. He’s got a great demeanor out there, knowing that maybe he needs some more shots. I liked the way he made some plays today. He was patient, he looked out for his teammates. I’m really proud of him, even though he doesn’t score a lot tonight. I’m proud of how he behaved, I’m proud of how he tried to stay disciplined and patient against the zone. He found people on the baseline, he drove, got some nice dimes.”
Mack is also a capable defender, quick on the ball and eager to turn defense into offense. Towards the end of the first half, Mack stole a pass at the top of the key and took it the other way for the easy lay-in.
Mack is, without a doubt, the catalyst for this team. It was his 21 points against then-No. 4 Wisconsin that helped Rutgers pull off a huge upset. Against No. 13 Maryland, he added 19. And against a good Minnesota team, Mack had 26. The move to the Big 10 has not fazed Mack.
“[It] hasn’t surprised me at all,” Mack said. “I thought it was gonna be just as good as it is. It’s what I thought it would be.”
It’s not that Mack isn’t good enough to lead the team to a better record. It’s that his supporting cast, other than Kadeem Jack, who scored 13 against Michigan, isn’t enough to take the burden off him. The fact that Mack is putting up these numbers while being one of the two real offensive threats for the team is even more impressive.
“Mack is an important player,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “We made sure to keep five guys in front of him as much as we could.”
The results for the team haven’t always been there for Rutgers during Mack’s tenure. There’s been scandal, coaching turnover,no winning seasons. But Mack has been everything the team could’ve hoped for and more when they landed him from St. Anthony’s. Mack averaged 15.2 points and 3.6 assists while leading the team to a 33-0 record and a No. 1 ranking his senior year.
There will be no No.1 ranking for this senior season, no perfect record, no dancing in March.
But Mack has made his mark on Rutgers. With just five more points, Mack will join the top-ten of Rutgers’ all-time leading scorers.
“He’s probably the only one who can make those plays consistently,” Jordan said. “That’s why we need him on the floor.”
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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.