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Providence’s Giavonni Mack: 24 ppg but 0 wins

By Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

During his freshman and sophomore seasons at Providence High School, Giavonni Mack’s 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 hasn’t 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 Providence’s seventh game of the season, Mack averages 24.6 points, third-most in the Observer’s 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.

“He’s been tackled, double-teamed, face-guarded aggressively,” said Mack’s father, Patrick. “You name it, they’ve done it.”

Mack is playing through some pain in his left knee, determined to help his team get that elusive win.

“It’s plenty tough,” he said. “You work all off-season to prepare for this and you don’t want to be this bad. I knew we’d have a tough season, but I didn’t think we’d be 0-14 right now. I thought we’d 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 you’re 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-Salem’s Mount Tabor High in the playoffs.

Since then, however, the bottom has fallen out.

“It’s 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.

There’s also been a rash of injuries.

“We’ve 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 they’ll be able to withstand it for awhile. We can’t do that, and this all happened at one time, but that’s part of coaching high school. You don’t recruit. You take what shows up at the door, and sometimes you go through these peaks and valleys. We’re 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.

“It’s a daily grind and a process,” said Davis, whose current team is 10-4 and has won six straight games. “It’s 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 you’re going through that season that you’re working as hard as other coaches, but you’re not getting the results.’ It’s frustrating. But I kept telling my kids that one day we’d get better. It’s 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.

“Giavonni’s a smart point guard, man,” Davis said. “He doesn’t force the issue, and he makes the right decisions for his team. It’s tough when you’ve got a guy that skilled who is smart, too. He can create for his teammates. He can make the open shot. He’s pretty complete.”

Lowery said that Mack – who is getting serious recruiting interest from Division I Mount Saint Mary’s, Marist and N.C. Central – is also pretty humble, too.

“You would never know if he’s averaging two points or 25 points,” Lowery said. “He’s 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 he’s deceptively quick,” Lowery said. “I haven’t 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. He’s third in scoring (6.1 ppg) and third in rebounding (4.0).

“It’s coming back around,” Lowery said, “but it’s 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.

“I’m pretty confident we’ll get a win, and not just one,” he said. “We’re getting better. We’ve been close. The thing coach stresses most is having guys execute. We’re doing that more and more. So this (losing) streak will end. We’re going to get some wins. It’s a matter of time, of us not giving up on coach and keep buying into what he’s teaching and coaching. If we do that, I really think we’re going to be all right.”

Wertz: 704-612-9716; twitter: @langstonwertzjr
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