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Young blood Mack gives Jonesboro life

Photo by Gabriel Stovall 
Jonesboro sophomore guard DeAnte Mack has become one of the Cardinals’ purest scorers.

Photo by Gabriel Stovall Jonesboro sophomore guard DeAnte Mack has become one of the Cardinals’ purest scorers.

JONESBORO — Rarely does something good emerge from a team that has to bench its senior-laden starting five for poor performance.

But thanks to DeAnte Mack, Jonesboro can call the lineup shuffle a blessing in disguise.

If not for Cardinals coach Dan Maehlman having a little angst about the production of his experienced team, Mack and his considerable scoring abilities might still be a large unknown to those who follow Jonesboro basketball.

“He’s just a scorer,” said Maehlman, about his sophomore guard. “He is a kid with who’s just a good offensive player for us right now. He’s really helped us big time while missing some guys with injuries and other things.”

Mack first flashed his scoring brilliance in Jonesboro’s season opener at Alpharetta. He stepped in and scored 17 points while knocking down five three pointers in the Cardinals’ 51-48 loss to the Raiders.

He had modest showings in Jonesboro’s next 13 games, and he didn’t see much action at all when the Cardinals battled No. 3 Eagle’s Landing two weeks ago.

But things changed last week at Spalding. As the starters sat the entire game, Mack put the team on his shoulders, leading them to a 70-68 victory and scoring a game high 21 points on three of six shooting from behind the arc.

After scoring seven points in Jonesboro’s blowout victory against North Clayton, Mack became the sharp shooter once again Saturday against arch rival Mount Zion.

He nailed a trio of clutch three pointers en route to a game high 19 points. He topped all Jonesboro scorers in two of its three games during the week and he stepped up his game defensively when it mattered — something that Maehlman said he wanted to see from Mack.

He also gave Jonesboro leading scorer Patrick Petty the backcourt companion Petty needed Saturday with guard Cameron Sutton away on an official football recruiting visit to Auburn.

Not bad for a sophomore playing with seniors on a team that reached back-to-back Class AAAA semifinals.

“At the beginning of the year, he was acting like a typical 15 year old,” Maehlman said. “Now he’s grown up. And he’s really coming into his own. He still has some ups and downs, but he’s becoming more of a complete player.”

Maehlman noted that Mack’s progress isn’t just obvious to the coaches. Jonesboro’s seasoned veterans are also noticing and trusting Mack’s development more as the season progresses.

“You saw out there against Mount Zion how Mack stepped up without Cam,” Maehlman said. “A lot of times when you have a lot of seniors, they feel like they have to do all the scoring and take over a game. But when you have a senior like Pat (Petty) who, instead of trying to score, doesn’t mind passing off to DeAnte, that lets you know that DeAnte has his confidence. That’s big for a senior.”

Maehlman cautions that the young guard still has much to learn. He wants to see Mack be more aggressive in driving to the basket and creating contact.

But one aspect of his game already seems to be refined beyond Mack’s years, according to his coach.

“He’s got one of the prettiest, pure shot releases I’ve seen,” Maehlman said.

That’s because Mack tirelessly works on his game like a player who wants to be the standout that his coach and teammates believe he can become.

“I usually take somewhere around 100 practice shots a day each week,” Mack said.

And though it has personally benefited Mack and his game, he said he is more interested in allowing his play to be a continued boon for his team.

“It feels good and I’m excited to just have this chance to help out my team,” he said. “I know I can still get better in a lot of areas, like my defense and driving to the basket. But I just want to improve to be a help to my team.”