Years from now, Shaka Smart may still be wrestling with his decision to suspend talented sophomore Tevin Mack, who was Texas’ leading scorer.
But on Monday, the Longhorns’ coach said the decision “was really not much of a choice” and that the 6-foot-7 swingman will be released from his UT scholarship.
Asked if he ever thinks about his decision to suspend Mack back on Jan. 12, Smart said, “There’s been a lot of games where afterward, that’s crossed my mind. But I really didn’t have a choice. As I told you guys, that was my decision.”
Mack was averaging a team-high 14.8 points per game when Smart suspended him for an undisclosed violation of team rules only four games into the Big 12 schedule. Statistically, Mack remains UT’s leading scorer overall even though Jarrett Allen is averaging 16.3 points in Big 12 games.
It was the second time this season that Mack had been suspended; he also was benched for the season opener for violating team rules.
The second suspension, however, stuck. Smart made the announcement the day after UT suffered a frustrating 64-61 loss to TCU at the Erwin Center. After the buzzer, Mack was seen yelling at teammate Kerwin Roach Jr.; the two Longhorns had to be separated. Texas (10-19, 4-12 Big 12) was 7-9 when Mack was suspended and has gone 3-10 since.
Smart said Monday that for the long-term growth of the program and for what he wants to establish culturally within the team, Mack had to be suspended.
Mack did not respond to messages from the American-Statesman, but multiple suitors are expected to line up for his services.
The Longhorns were desperate for another scorer this season. Texas is 3-7 in games decided by three points or less. Prior to Saturday’s 10-point loss to Kansas, all seven of UT’s Big 12 home games had been decided by four points or less.
The Horns have two regular-season games remaining, including a trip to Texas Tech on Wednesday. The team could finish with 20 losses for the first time in decades and, barring a stunning series of events at the Big 12 tournament, will miss the NCAAs.
Mack’s name is still listed in the UT student directory. The Columbia, S.C. native may look at programs closer to his hometown, a source said.
“One of the things you try to do in coaching is you try to do the best thing for the young men that you coach,” Smart said. “But you’re also trying to do the right thing for the program. Most of the time, those things align with each other. But sometimes they don’t, and you’ve got to make a tough call.”
Mack wasn’t just any recruit to Smart, either. He was committed to the coach and planned on joining him at Virginia Commonwealth. After Smart took the Texas job, Mack switched his commitment and came to Austin. “Once I got released (at VCU), he told me he wanted me to come with him,” Mack told the Statesman in May 2015.
“It was just difficult that it didn’t work out the way with Tevin that we thought it could work out,” Smart said. “Basketball-wise, he was really making tremendous progress.”
Taylor signs with Rockets: Former UT guard Isaiah Taylor has agreed to a three-year, non-guaranteed deal with the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN.
Taylor missed December and January with an undisclosed injury. He spent some time with the Longhorns prior to Christmas and said he had no regrets about leaving UT early. This month, he’s averaging 16.5 points while shooting 43 percent for the Rockets’ developmental team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
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