A different shade of blue: Shelvin Mack

By TJ Walker

[email protected]

As UK prepares for its first Final Four in 13 years, people across the city have been consumed by blue. But at least one Lexington family and school is sporting a different shade of blue.

Butler junior guard Shelvin Mack’s underdog story came much earlier than when he enrolled at Butler. Before he became a legend at Bryan Station High School, it was passed on to him before he could even dribble a ball.

Mack was raised by a single mother, Victoria Guy, who had Mack when she was 16 years old. Mack’s life started with his back against the wall when Guy passed up a scholarship to Eastern Kentucky University to raise Mack and his two siblings.

Throughout his childhood, nothing ever came easy to Mack. He grew up in an underprivileged part of Lexington and eventually enrolled at Bryan Station.

There he foreshadowed his Butler career. When Mack played for the Defenders, Bryan Station turned into a state power. In his four years there, he totaled 98 wins, the most by a Bryan Station player, and in 2008, he led Bryan Station to a No.1 ranking and a region runner up, finishing the season 30-3.

But that dream season may have never occurred if it weren’t for what Mack did off the court.

When Bryan Station head coach Champ Ligon was fired in 2007, after winning 68 games in three seasons. Mack helped lead a “Bring Back Ligon” campaign which was surprisingly successful. There was enough outcry that Ligon was rehired to lead the team in 2007-2008.

“Mack is a true definition of the word leader, on and off the court,” Bryan Station Athletic Director Chad Luhman said. “He was an outstanding young man, always making an impact.

“He’s left a huge mark on Bryan Station, the teaching staff and administration still have fond memories of Shelvin. I remember earlier this year people were talking about getting home from the game or school to catch the end of the Butler game.”

The school continues to celebrate Mack’s successes each season.

“There is a big display for Mack in the library right now, we have a Final Four seat from last year that he sat on, so we’ve kept up on him and he’s left a huge mark on us. He’s a great success story from Bryan Station.“

Before Mack’s senior season, he wasn’t getting too much college attention. Small schools had heard of him and by the start of his senior year he had a list of small Division I schools.

But then Mack’s breakout season was in full swing, and the farther his senior season went on, the more interest he was garnering. By the time his high school career ended he had heard from West Virginia, Xavier and even UK.

However, Mack recalled one school that wanted him before everyone else. A school whose head coach watched summer workouts of a six-foot guard from Kentucky who had minimal Division I offers.

Mack pledged to Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs on January 7, 2008.

“He’s so loyal and he had made his decision to go to Butler,” Luhman said. “The coach from Butler was at preseason workout and always around the gym, and Shelvin was committed to him, and he was going to honor that even after the bigger schools came in late.”

But Luhman suggested he isn’t worried about revenge against the local schools who didn’t give him as much attention.

“He’s proud of his accomplishments and he isn’t worried about what other teams are doing.”

Mack’s list of accomplishments continues to grow. He has led Butler to another Final Four, averaging 15.9 points per game, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists. These numbers along with his extraordinary leadership will propel him to the next level.

Currently, NBADraft.net has Mack projected for the first round, 24th overall to Oklahoma City. But as Luhman suggested, Mack is more concerned with the task at hand: another chance at a championship.

But with both Butler and UK in the Final Four, it could create a pleasant dilemma for the students and staff of Bryan Station.

“They’re rooting for a UK vs. Butler final game and I personally find it hard to root against Shelvin,” Luhman said.