If March Madness is to be infused with a measure of Mac McClung mania, Texas Tech University is certainly the place it can happen.
“The main goal here is not trying to make the [NCAA] tournament,” McClung said last week in a telephone interview. “It’s trying to win the tournament. The players and the coaching staff all have that winning culture.”
McClung is now part of that culture after transferring from Georgetown University and the former Gate City High School superstar will officially make his debut for the Red Raiders in two weeks against Northwestern State.
The last few months have involved major decisions for McClung and the whirlwind of developments have occurred in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
McClung declared for the National Basketball Association Draft on March 19, but withdrew his name from that process on May 13 and on the same day announced he was entering the NCAA transfer portal.
The dynamic 6-foot-2 guard was the nation’s most coveted transfer as Texas Tech, Auburn, Memphis, Southern California, BYU, Arkansas and Wake Forest were the finalists for his services.
He announced on May 27 that Texas Tech was his destination.
However, McClung didn’t find out until Oct. 30 that the NCAA had approved his transfer waiver and made him eligible to play during the 2020-21 season.
“It was hard not to think about, “McClung said. “I just tried to focus on bettering myself and my teammates. After a while, it was hard not knowing. When I did find out, it was just great. I’m so appreciative of how hard they worked here at Texas Tech getting me the waiver and it meant a big weight off my shoulders.”
Now, the only weight he carries is that of expectations as Texas Tech has seven returnees back in the fold to go along with seven promising newcomers.
Tech lost in overtime to the University of Virginia in the 2019 national title game and the Red Raiders came in at 14th in this season’s initial Associated Press Top-25 rankings.
McClung averaged 14.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists over the course of 50 games in his two seasons at Georgetown, but the Hoyas never won a postseason game. Where will he fit in with head coach Chris Beard’s talented squad?
“In Texas Tech’s motion offense, there aren’t cut-in-stone positions. There isn’t really a point guard, shooting guard or small forward,” said Ryan Mainville, a sports writer for The Daily Toreador in Lubbock, Texas. “I believe this will play in the favor of McClung. Most of Mac’s opportunities will come as a ball-handler, which is his greatest strength on offense. … He’ll get to split those responsibilities with one of the most experienced juniors in college basketball, Kyler Edwards, and Tech’s highest-rated recruit ever, Nimari Burnett. This will give him the chance to get off-ball looks for shots and lanes to cut to the basket.”
Southwest Virginia’s favorite son made a quick adjustment to life in the Lone Star State.
“Lubbock’s a lot farther from home than I’m used to,” McClung said. “It’s full of a lot of great people. It’s a fun place. It’s a big town and small town all at once.”
He was an honorable mention selection on the preseason All-Big 12 Conference team.
McClung is proving to be a big deal in his new surroundings.
Texas Tech’s social media channels posted a humorous video of McClung on Monday that has garnered thousands of views.
“Simply stated he’s here to be one of our best players,” Beard said about McClung at a recent press conference. “He’s here to be one of the best players in college basketball.”
ESPN analyst Dick Vitale referred to McClung as a PTPer on Twitter Monday. That is Vitale-ese for Prime Time Player.
“It is clear the excitement has already begun,” Mainville said. “Talking to fans, it is clear he is one of the most highly- anticipated players to come into this program in recent years – maybe of all time. Once he takes the court, I have no doubt his high-flying dunks will garner him more fans. I would not be surprised to see a lot of number zero jerseys being worn in the stands this year.”
McClung is indeed back to wearing jersey No. 0 (he wore No. 2 at Georgetown) that he sported during his senior season at Gate City, when he led the Blue Devils to the VHSL Class 2 state championship and rewrote the state’s record book.
As he attempts to soar to new heights at Texas Tech, his game has gotten better since leaving high school.
“I’ve improved leaps and bounds from the player I was then until now,” McClung said.