LUBBOCK, Texas — Former Gate City Blue Devil and current Texas Tech Red Raiders junior guard Mac McClung was fifteen minutes late for a scheduled 2 p.m. phone interview. That in and of itself was not particularly noteworthy. However, it was the reason for the delay that was intriguing.
“A little bit of yoga,” said the Georgetown transfer with a slight chuckle. “It’s mostly stretching, but it’s about lengthening your muscles, staying loose, and keeping everything stabilized.”
Basketball-wise, stability is something that McClung has not seen much of since March of this year. At that time, he announced his decision to enter the NBA draft. Although he generally received a good review from the draft appraisers, his shortcomings were such that he was not projected to be a possible draft pick until 2021 or 2022. In May, he withdrew his name from draft considerations.
Almost simultaneously, he left Georgetown, entered the transfer portal, and applied for a waiver that, if granted, would allow him to play for his new team this season. A recruiting courtship ensued with Texas Tech and other schools, including Auburn, Memphis, and Wake Forest. The Red Raiders and Coach Chris Beard ultimately won McClung’s heart. He has been in Lubbock, TX since July and in late October was declared by the NCAA to be immediately eligible to play for Texas Tech, currently ranked 14th in the AP preseason Top 25. With his basketball feet now firmly planted on solid ground, he eagerly awaits his Big 12 debut on Wednesday versus Northwestern State.
[Editor’s note: Wednesday’s deadline occurred before the conclusion of the game]
“The fan base here is great; I believe they are ranked in the Top-Three in basketball,” said McClung. “I’ll definitely be excited and anxious, but at the same time it will be a more focused and calm endeavor than it’s been in recent years.”
McClung gives much, much credit to his new coach for helping him become a better player, perhaps even a better person, and to understand what it will take to reach his goal – the NBA.
“He tries to incorporate your goals into everything you do. It’s about the NBA and how to get there,” McClung said. “To that end though it’s about team success and winning. They have provided me with a daily routine to get better and further my development as a basketball player.”
Some draft profiles indicated that McClung needed to improve his shooting (29 percent career 3-point shooter) and assists percentages (only 2.4 APG last season) and make the right play more often than the wrong one. He wants to show everyone — those who support him and even those that do not — that he has learned to play the game of basketball. His motivation has always been to compete hard and win handily.
“If I can get those percentages up, and we win, I believe I can get to the NBA,” said McClung. “There are no sure things, but I believe in myself and Coach Beard. The biggest thing is winning and if we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”
As a player, McClung likes to push the ball up the court and contends that Texas Tech is a much more up-tempo-type team than he has played on in the past. Except for certain times in the game, there are not a lot of set plays.
“This offense is not ball-heavy to where the guard has the ball in his hands all the time. We play a motion offense and no one guy controls it,” said McClung. “I’ll play point guard some, but the reality is that I’ve played almost every position in this offense. There’s a lot of freedom in this offense and when I’m pushing the tempo, coach does not have a problem with that.”
Besides the x’s and o’s of the game, Beard has become relatable to McClung through his work ethic, personality, and love for and commitment to the game of basketball and his players.
“I feel like Coach Beard is a bit of an underdog, and so am I,” said McClung. “But he’s an unbelievable man. After meeting with him, talking with him, and understanding his mind, I knew I was going to be super excited to be a part of this program.”
When McClung decided to transfer from Georgetown, he told ESPN that he was “looking for a place I can call home. A place I can be a part of a family and help them succeed.” Judging by his reception from the current Red Raiders roster as well as from notable alumni like reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes, he has found just that.
“It’s a great culture to be a part of. On twitter, you could see how welcoming they were to me. One of the guys gave me his jersey number, so it’s like a family here for sure,” McClung said, who will be sporting jersey number zero for the first time since his senior year at Gate City. “I enjoy everyone on the team and there is no one that doesn’t get along. We hang out together all the time.”
Perhaps even in yoga class.