During his freshman and sophomore seasons at Providence High School, Giavonni Macks teams won eight games.
This season, Mack and the Panthers are 0-14. Providence has a 15-game losing streak dating to last year and hasnt won in 345 days.
The losing is hard, but Mack is still having a remarkable season. Despite a knee sprain he suffered Dec. 11 against Sun Valley, in Providences seventh game of the season, Mack averages 24.6 points, third-most in the Observers 133-school coverage area in North and South Carolina. Before he got hurt, he was averaging close to 30 points. And because no other Providence player averages more than nine, other teams always make sure to focus on the Panthers 5-foot-9 junior point guard.
Hes been tackled, double-teamed, face-guarded aggressively, said Macks father, Patrick. You name it, theyve done it.
Mack is playing through some pain in his left knee, determined to help his team get that elusive win.
Its plenty tough, he said. You work all off-season to prepare for this and you dont want to be this bad. I knew wed have a tough season, but I didnt think wed be 0-14 right now. I thought wed have some wins, but you know what? It makes you work harder and become better leaders and become more vocal, to let the team know youre not giving up. All you can do is look back and say I played my heart out. You try to stay positive.
A quick fall to bottom
Three years ago, just before Mack came to school, Providence shared the 2010 Southwestern 4A conference regular-season championship with Ardrey Kell, led by 6-foot-6 star forward Terrance Hampton. The Panthers finished 18-9 and lost to Winston-Salems Mount Tabor High in the playoffs.
Since then, however, the bottom has fallen out.
Its almost been the scenario where everything bad that could happen has happened, Panthers coach Myron Lowery said.
Some talented kids have moved out of the Panthers zone. One player who led the Panthers in rebounding last year and was second to Mack in scoring is academically ineligible this season. Another player who would have started left for Charlotte Christian after his family received an inheritance and was able to fulfill a dream of a private school education.
Theres also been a rash of injuries.
Weve never been the most talented team anyway, said Lowery, whose team boasts current Los Angeles Laker and former North Carolina Tar Heel and national college player of the year Antawn Jamison as its most famous alum. You take a team like (Sweet 16 No. 2) West Charlotte (or No. 1 and nationally ranked) Olympic, you can take a few players and theyll be able to withstand it for awhile. We cant do that, and this all happened at one time, but thats part of coaching high school. You dont recruit. You take what shows up at the door, and sometimes you go through these peaks and valleys. Were just in a valley at this particular moment.
Independence coach Preston Davis can relate. He played on a state championship team at Independence, his alma mater, in 1997, but when he went back to coach there four years ago, the program was in shambles.
The Patriots won 15 games in the four seasons before this one. Twice in those four years, Independence only won two games. Last year, the Patriots were 2-23.
Work hard, develop players
Davis said the key to getting through it is by continuing to work hard and developing your players. He said it helps to catch a break and get a special talent, like Lowery has in Mack.
Its a daily grind and a process, said Davis, whose current team is 10-4 and has won six straight games. Its really hard from a coaching perspective. You worry more about the kids losing confidence. I was talking to one of my buddies I coached with in Florida and I said, It seems like when youre going through that season that youre working as hard as other coaches, but youre not getting the results. Its frustrating. But I kept telling my kids that one day wed get better. Its a daily commitment to getting better.
Davis thinks that Providence is on the right track. He notes the Panthers are playing close games. Independence beat Providence 63-55 last Friday, for example. And Davis believes Mack is a bona fide star.
Giavonnis a smart point guard, man, Davis said. He doesnt force the issue, and he makes the right decisions for his team. Its tough when youve got a guy that skilled who is smart, too. He can create for his teammates. He can make the open shot. Hes pretty complete.
Lowery said that Mack who is getting serious recruiting interest from Division I Mount Saint Marys, Marist and N.C. Central is also pretty humble, too.
You would never know if hes averaging two points or 25 points, Lowery said. Hes as humble as can be.
Lowery said despite the double-teams and triple-teams, Mack has stayed upbeat through his career.
He has a knack for scoring, and hes deceptively quick, Lowery said. I havent seen a guard that can really guard him. He can single-handedly take over a game.
This season, Lowery got a group of kids who put together a pair of middle school championship seasons at Robinson Middle. One of those Robinson kids starts 6-2 freshman post Jeremy Spencer is second on the team in scoring (9.5 ppg) and first in rebounding (6.1). Four more start on a promising junior varsity team. Another freshman, 6-3 Jonathan Davenport, from Crestdale Middle, starts on varsity. Hes third in scoring (6.1 ppg) and third in rebounding (4.0).
Its coming back around, Lowery said, but its going to take a year or two. I just hope we can build up where G gets some kids around him, so everyone is not focusing on him 100 percent of the time. With that, he could put up some bigger numbers.
Mack wants all that, too, but even more, he wants to help Providence win now.
Im pretty confident well get a win, and not just one, he said. Were getting better. Weve been close. The thing coach stresses most is having guys execute. Were doing that more and more. So this (losing) streak will end. Were going to get some wins. Its a matter of time, of us not giving up on coach and keep buying into what hes teaching and coaching. If we do that, I really think were going to be all right.