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“I could take a team of five”: Kameron Mack talks collegiate, casual basketball

| Senior Sports Editor

Kameron Mack is a sophomore on the Washington University men’s basketball team from Algonquin, Ill. After a series of injuries sidelined a number of the team’s starters, Mack stepped up to fill the gap in scoring left in their absence. In the last five games, Mack has averaged 13.2 points while shooting 55.3% from the field. Ahead of Wash. U.’s match-up with University of Rochester and No. 8 Emory University, I sat down with Mack to talk about stepping up in place of the injured Bears and developing his game.

Student Life: What do you study?

Kameron Mack: Finance, and I’m minoring in psychology.

SL: So how’d you decide to be in the business school?

KM: Coming out of high school, I pretty much had no idea what I wanted to do. But I knew there were a lot of things I didn’t want to do. Business was always very attractive to me just because of the many routes that I could go with it. There’s obviously a lot of avenues that you can do with finance. And finance is the basis to a lot of other career options and paths. It gives you that sound base of how business works, how money is being moved.

SL: Do you know what you want to do with it?

KM: Consulting.

SL: Getting into basketball, since conference started, over the course of five games, you’ve been averaging 13.2 points [per game]. What has led to you getting a lot more scoring opportunities that you weren’t necessarily getting early in the season?

KM: Obviously we have a lot of guys injured right now. Our starting point guard [senior Matt Nester] is out with a hand injury, starting small forward [sophomore Justin Hardy] had a concussion and [senior] Hank [Hunter], the center, [is out] with his shoulder [injury]. There’s just been a lot more opportunities for me and for other guys as well to get more playing time and the team required more from me. I think early on in the season, I just had a different role because we had a lot more scoring. My role was primarily defense, but I’ve always had the capability to go and score if we needed that and once those guys got injured, we just had to have our next man up mentality.

SL: You’ve been playing really well. So I imagine that even when they do come back from injury, you’re still going to be getting more minutes than you were at the beginning of the season. Do you think that’s the case?

KM: I hope so. Once those guys come back, I think our team will be even that much better because myself and some other guys that didn’t get as much opportunity in the beginning of the season have grown. And it’s a built-in confidence when you get to actually be out there and find the rhythm of the game, find out what you want to do. When those guys come back, the system will be a little bit different, but we’ll be stronger for it.

SL: There’s a stat of yours over the last five conference games that I thought was super interesting. You shot 52.6% from beyond the arc. However, you’re shooting 40% from the free throw line. What’s the difference? What’s causing that disparity?

KM: You make what you practice, right? We shoot a lot of threes. We shoot a lot of threes in practice, in drills and in the regular flow of the game. But when you’re at the free throw line, it’s a different shot. You know, you’re not catching and shooting. It’s not off the dribble. It’s the referees passing you the ball and you’re waiting at the line for the ball so it’s a little bit of a different feeling. For me, that’s always kind of been a bugaboo in my game. It’s just that difference between shooting [a] set shot at the line and in a regular shot at the three point, a jumper. But yeah, it’s a weird stat.

SL: I’ve also noticed that you don’t get to the free throw line very often. How would you describe your game?

KM: I would say I have more of an inside-out game. I try to attack first and that opens up the ability to shoot the three and the outside game, but you always want to start inside-out. This year I’ve started working on a post game as well because I’m 6’6”. I used to play guard a lot in high school—I wasn’t really that tall. And then my sophomore year of high school, I sprouted up a lot and so coaches always wanted to put me on the block, you know? They said “He’s tall, throw him down in the post.” This year, I’m really working with my coaches on adding that part to my game as well.

SL: As you’re trying to like add that part of your game, is there anybody in particular you’re trying to emulate?

KM: DeVaughn Rucker, a senior on the team. Just his footwork, the way he uses his body in the post to create space is something that I’ve learned a lot from in practice and I try to emulate [that] in what I do.

SL: Speaking of DeVaughn Rucker and some of the other older people on the team, since you’ve had to take a larger role with these injuries, have the senior leaders on the team been helpful in that transition?

KM: Yeah, those guys have been helpful from day one. And the beautiful thing about the team is that everyone’s just supported every step of the way. You know, whether it be freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors we all just want the best for the team, and so even the guys who are out have been trying to help me as well as the other guys my age, [sophomore] Charlie [Jacob] in particular because he’s the starting point guard now. He has such a big role in guiding the team, trying to help us keep our heads calm when we’re in tough spots and other teams go on runs because we’ve been in those positions before.

SL: What do you do when you’re not playing basketball?

KM: When I’m not playing basketball, there’s not a lot of free time. I’m probably in the library. That’s where you can find me or I do a lot of studying in my room. For me, basketball is my free time. And obviously, this is Wash. U. You have a lot on your plate. So for me, when I’m in the gym, that’s kind of my downtime and my break from studying or whatever work I have to do.

SL: Do you ever play basketball against your non-basketball team friends?

KM: Yes.

SL: How does it go?

KM: It’s interesting because the game is totally different. Sometimes it’s dangerous when people don’t necessarily play basketball because you got guys that are aggressive. They’re trying to prove something, but I actually live right by the swamp. So when it gets warm out and it’s after the season, I’m always out there. We’ll play pick up [or] 21.

SL: You mention guys trying to prove something.

KM: Yeah.

SL: Has anybody ever managed to win?

KM: No.

SL: Has it ever been close?

KM: Yes. A couple close games.

SL: Of the average Olin Business School student, how many of them do you think you can defeat playing basketball on your own?

KM: Like, one-on-one?

SL: They get as many as they need to play you. But it’s just you on your team.

KM: I say, I could take…I could take a team of five. Give me five-on-one.

SL: You think you got five-on-one against the average Olin student?

KM: Five-on-one if you randomly select five Olin students. Because if I miss, I’m getting the rebound. So I say five, max. Maybe three is more realistic.

SL: I asked my friend this and he thought the answer was three. But I believe in you. I said the answer was four.

KM: I believe in myself. I’m gonna go five.

SL: Bold. I respect it. Do you play people on the basketball team one on one?

KM: Yes. Ones are our favorite, favorite thing to do. Most of the time it’s me and DeVaughn. Sometimes, I play Charlie too, after practice.

SL: Who’s the hardest person to guard one-on-one?

KM: Charlie Jacob. He has a counter for everything that you do. So if I switch my foot stance and I forced him one way, he’s got a counter for it. He can go both ways. If you pressure really hard, he’ll go right by. If you sag off, he can shoot the three. So that’s always been the hardest guy, I think, to guard one-on-one.

SL: Who do you have the most trouble scoring on?

KM: I would say DeVaughn just because of his strength. He’s a hard guy to play bully ball with. And he’s also laterally quick as well, so he makes it pretty hard to score.

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