The Daily Gamecock

B.J. Mack helps guide South Carolina men's basketball to early-season success with major performances

<p>FILE — Graduate student forward BJ Mack looks to grab the rebound during South Carolina’s exhibition game against Wofford at Colonial Life Arena on Nov. 1, 2023. Mack led the Gamecocks in scoring with 14 points in the 60-57 victory over the Terriers.</p>
FILE — Graduate student forward BJ Mack looks to grab the rebound during South Carolina’s exhibition game against Wofford at Colonial Life Arena on Nov. 1, 2023. Mack led the Gamecocks in scoring with 14 points in the 60-57 victory over the Terriers.

Graduate student forward B.J. Mack's collegiate career began long before he stepped onto the court at Colonial Life Arena for the first time.

The Charlotte, North Carolina, native originally plied his trade nearly 600 miles from his hometown, making his college debut in 2019 for South Florida against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

In the four years since, Mack's ability to make major shots and grab rebounds in game-deciding moments has helped the South Carolina men's basketball team's 14-3 start to the 2023-24 campaign.

Mack spent his freshman year at South Florida, but the Tampa-based school was not the only stop on his college basketball journey. He transferred to Wofford after averaging just 7.5 minutes per game during his first collegiate season.

After seeing limited opportunities with the Bulls, Mack experienced a breakthrough in his three years with the Terriers. He improved in scoring each season, averaging 16.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game during his senior campaign.

The 2021-22 season was Mack's best with Wofford, though. Not only did he average 16.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, as well as complete 70 assists overall and shoot 44.8% from 3-point range, but he also received National Association of Basketball Coaches First Team All-District and Second Team All-Southern Conference accolades.

He also caught the eye of Gamecock head coach Lamont Paris, who was coaching at Chattanooga at the time and frequently played against Mack and his Wofford teammates.

Paris said he was impressed with his offensive versatility and veteran status.

"He also can score back to the basket. He's just a very versatile guy offensively, so you're gonna have to make some decisions in how you guard him and who you guard him with," Paris said. "That was a big part of it, and he was an older, experienced guy." 


Despite his accolades, Mack still had to enter the transfer portal since Wofford did not offer a graduate program.

Mack received offers to play for Alabama, Arkansas and Iowa — three teams that reached last year's NCAA tournament — but ultimately decided to stay in the Palmetto State and transfer to South Carolina. 

Before the season began, Mack showed flashes of the potential impact that he could have on the team's success.

Mack led the Gamecocks in scoring during the team's 60-57 win over Wofford in a preseason exhibition, finishing with 14 points on 5-9 shooting including 2-4 on 3-point attempts.

Junior guard Myles Stute said Mack helped the team by making important baskets late in the game.

"Kudos to B.J. He hit some big shots tonight," Stute said following the win. "I think as a collective unit, we also hit some big shots."

It was not much longer before Mack started making big plays in the regular season.

In South Carolina's second game of the regular season Mack nailed a game-winning basket as time expired, in a 79-77 victory over Virginia Tech to kick off the 2023 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.Mack totaled 19 points in the game. 

Mack returned to his hometown of Charlotte for the game where his family attended. Mack said he was happy to see some of his family watch him play, including his dad and uncle, who sat courtside for the game.

"It's pretty surreal to know that's a full circle — coming here, born and raised here in Charlotte," Mack said. 

As a Gamecock, Mack has averaged 13.4 points per game, accumulated 82 rebounds total and has shot 42.8% from the field. He leads the team in rebounds per game at 5.1 and is second in points per game behind junior guard Meechie Johnson. 

But Mack has struggled to shoot from distance at a high percentage, making just 21 of his 68 3-point attempts. He still remains a strong scoring threat inside the paint, however — a skill Paris praised him for. 

"He made one really strong move where he pivoted a couple times, pumped fake," Paris said after the Winthrop game. "He went right into a guy, got some contact, still got the ball up the rim."

Mack said he is very confident in his and his teammates' role on the team. Their teamwork is ultimately what helps them win games, he said. 

"When I know that if it is crunch time situation for a shot to go up, I know that my guys are gonna be right there behind me," Mack said.

That teamwork was apparent in South Carolina's 71-69 overtime victory over Missouri. Mack led the team with 21 points, but it was his teammate junior guard Jacobi Wright who stepped up and hit a game-winning shot to help the Gamecocks improve to a 2-1 record in SEC play.

"We've shared the ball incredibly well," Paris said. "The numbers say that, but my eyeballs say that, more importantly."

Mack and the Gamecocks look to continue building on its positive start to the season when facing Arkansas on the road on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m., and the game will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.


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