Alabama basketball might be seeing a lot more of Tevin Mack
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Changes might be coming for Alabama basketball — at least if you ask Avery Johnson Jr. Monday, the senior point guard hinted to a potential alteration in the Crimson Tide’s lineup, following its 70-64 loss to Central Florida last week.
Alabama (5-2) has gone with the same starting lineup the past six games with Kira Lewis Jr. at point guard, John Petty Jr. at shooting guard, Herbert Jones at small forward and Donta Hall and Galin Smith at the low post. However, according to Johnson, Alabama might be seeing a lot more from Texas transfer Tevin Mack in the near future.
“I feel like he’ll be in the lineup more just based off of practice, what I’ve seen and in the games,” Johnson said. “I think we’ll start to utilize him more. It’s just kind of the matchups and how the game shapes up.”
Ultimately, the call will be up to Johnson’s father, head coach Avery Johnson. The older Johnson was less willing to reveal his hand when asked about potential changes during his Monday news conference.
“We’re always evaluating our team, rotation, starting lineups, guys who play well together, some teams that don’t play well together,” he said. “It’s always an evaluation whether its the game on tomorrow or the next game or a month from now, we’ll make the best decision that we can to get ourselves the best chance to win.”
Injecting Mack into the starting lineup could certainly have its appeal for Alabama. The 6-foot-6 swingman is one of the Crimson Tide’s most versatile players and has the ability to drive to the lane as well as spot up from 3. Before sitting out last year after transferring, Mack led Texas with 14.8 points per game and a 39.1 percentage from 3 over 15 games during the 2016-17 season.
“I just think when he’s making shots, what he’s pretty well for, it makes us a lot better offensive team,” the older Johnson said. “But he has to continue to grow defensively, also. A lot of times with players we only focus on one side of the ball. It’s offense or ability to make shots. That sounds good, but we can’t have guys making one or two shots on offense and then having 10 breakdowns on defense.”
Through seven games, Mack is still shaking off some of the rust from his season away from the court. The redshirt junior is averaging 7.9 points per game and is shooting just 25.8 percent from 3. However, there have been glimpses of brilliance. During Alabama’s second game of the Charleston Classic against Ball State, Mack scored a season-high 20 points on 7 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 9 from beyond the arc. The hope for an Alabama team shooting just 30.9 percent from 3 this season is that Mack will return to that level sooner than later.
“They got to just keep gaining trust in me for real is what it is,” Mack said last week. “I haven’t played in a long time. So as I keep getting more reps out there on the court and practice as well as the games, I think it’s going to all come together and they’re going to keep gaining their trust in me.”
If Mack does enter the starting lineup, it will likely be for Smith. While, Alabama would be losing some length by benching Smith (6-foot-9, 245 pounds), Mack’s athleticism would allow him to play as a stretch four and provide more range on the offensive end.
“Great outside shooter and getting the ball to the basket,” forward Donta Hall said of Mack. “He’s a pretty big player for us at the forward. With him shooting outside, that will help us out. And with us crashing the boards with me, him and Herb (Jones) it’ll be a big help for us.”
It might make sense for Alabama to switch to a smaller lineup as it faces a Georgia State team that features a starting five with no players over 6-foot-6. The Crimson Tide will host the Panthers (5-3) Tuesday at 7 p.m. CT inside Coleman Coliseum.
Avery Johnson provides injury update
Alabama might be without two players for Tuesday's game. During his Monday news conference, Johnson ruled out freshman forward Javian Davis-Fleming (knee) while listing sophomore forward Alex Reese as day-to-day with an ankle injury.
“Javian Davis-Fleming is improving every day, but he’s out for tomorrow’s game," Johnson said. "But he’s getting in better shape, and he’s getting better at running and moving, maturing. He’s playing against some really good players in practice every day.
“Alex Reese sustained a left ankle sprain in practice Saturday. He didn’t practice yesterday. We’ll see how he looks in practice today, but he’s basically day-to-day.”