When Mac McClung listed Texas Tech as one of the finalists after deciding to transfer from Georgetown, I completely disregarded the possibility he’d end up in Lubbock.
Texas Tech is the paragon of team basketball. Anyone who’d watched McClung for longer than five minutes at Georgetown would question whether the sophomore was even aware he had teammates.
To play for Tech coach Chris Beard, you have to forfeit the self for the good of the team. I was certain that was too big of a sacrifice for McClung, who’d been worshipped since his junior year of high school and relied upon as the sole source of offense for a depleted Georgetown roster.
What would motivate McClung to push programs who’d make him the centerpiece of their offense aside and play for a system that may cut his points-per-game from 16 to 13 or 14?
At some point in all our lives, we face the devastating reality that we are not the greatest thing to grace the earth with our presence. We realize, at our core, we’re mostly just like everyone else. We have some talents and we have some weaknesses, and if we want to rise above mediocrity, we have to put forth a concerted effort to quash our flaws and replace them with new strengths. Most people either don’t want to put in the work to go through this process, or they’re content with being exactly who they are - which is totally fine, by the way - but it’s not something that will put you in the elite category of whatever it is that you do.
McClung was hit with his first dose of reality when he heard back from NBA scouts. We don’t know the specifics of what he was told, but we know the feedback was far from glowing if it made McClung return to school, and particularly a school like Tech. There are significant changes he needs to make to his game, and I can say with complete confidence multiple scouts recommended he learn how to be a team player.
The dynamic guard’s style of play at Georgetown wouldn’t come close to translating to the NBA. It took him a lot of shots to reach his 15.7 points-per-game average. He did not shoot the ball from beyond the arc well at all. On countless possessions, he’d intentionally or accidentally (not sure which is worse) ignore wide-open teammates so he could put up a circus shot. Sometimes it’d go in. Usually it wouldn’t.
Chris Beard, for the record, is aware of McClung’s flaws. Behind all of the praises he’s heaped on the guard leading up to and after his transfer, Tech’s coach knows he needs to break down McClung and rebuild him in his own image. There are copious habits that need dissolving, and a new frame of mind to instill. The film indicates McClung’s basketball IQ is severely lacking. He plays playground basketball, modeling his game after the legendary point guard who’s high-school scoring record he shattered, but with less self-awareness and control than even Allen Iverson displayed in his early years.
Yes, Beard knows this. But he also knows of the raw talent and superstar potential oozing out of McClung like the yolk of a newly punctured fried egg. If Beard could get his hands on him, he’d do what he’s done with every player who’s walked through those doors at United Supermarkets Arena - elevate him to or near his fullest potential.
Here’s what that might look like:
If we see a decrease in McClung’s points per game, it will be a win for Tech. The Red Raiders don’t need him dropping 25 points on 9-24 shooting. If Beard handles this to perfection, McClung’s stat-line would look more like 14 points on 5-9, with double the number of assists he registered last season. With better offensive talent around him this year, McClung won’t need to jack up a bunch of shots to keep the team in games. He was a point guard in name only last season, but that will change under Beard. It has to.
I was skeptical when the Red Raiders signed McClung. Then I remembered it’s not McClung I have to believe in. It’s Chris Beard. And Chris Beard has never given me any reason to question his decision-making.
Thus, I’ve reached a verdict - however reluctant I was to embrace it - Mac McClung will elevate the Red Raiders because Chris Beard will elevate Mac McClung.
Mac, prove me right.