They would meet up at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis almost every day, put up some shots, working on moves and battling one-on-one.
Shelvin Mack used the chance to work on how get to shots over a taller opponent, in this case, the 6-foot-8 Gordon Hayward. Hayward used the time to work on post moves, back-downs and turnaround jumpers, preparing for the time he would be guarded by shorter players like the 6-3 Mack.
The two former college teammates were making each other better, preparing for a season that they weren’t sure was going to happen. “It was tough because of the lockout,” Hayward said. “But it was good to have someone else going though the same thing with you.”
And on Friday, those workout sessions may actually play out in an NBA game as the Wizards play the Utah Jazz at Energy Solutions Arena, meaning the two players who led Butler within one slightly off-target half-court shot of defeating Duke for the 2010 NCAA championship face off as opponents the first time.
“It will be great to go out there and compete against each other,” Mack said.
Hayward is a starting swingman for the Jazz, averaging 9.9 points and 2.9 rebounds, while Mack is a rookie backing up the one member of the Wizards guaranteed to play heavy minutes and is averaging 3.4 points and 1.5 assists. Mack was recently put in Randy Wittman’s regular rotation and said he has become more confident as he gains a rhythm running the offense.
“From what I’ve seen and been able to watch, when he gets in the game, he’s been able to have an impact and done well,” Hayward said. “I keep telling him to keep going out, playing hard and competing.
“It’s just cool that now we’re both here and last summer, we were able to look back and talk about the games in the fall,” Hayward said. He was in a tough spot for sure, but at the same time, he realized when he came out, there was a possibility this could happen, there might be a lockout, so he knew what he was getting into.“
Mack said he hasn’t been surprised by Hayward’s improvement in his second season, having observed his work ethic while they played two seasons together in college.
“Everyone at Butler knew what he could do and that’s why he got picked so high. It’s just showing some of the hard work he did over the summer is starting to pay off,” Mack said of Hayward. “He was in the weight room, eating the proper things to get his body together.”
Though they were both lightly recruited and wound at a mid-major program, Mack said the idea of possibly reaching the NBA became a possibility when he and Hayward both led the U.S. under-19 team to a gold medal at the world championships in New Zealand in 2009. Golden State guard Klay Thompson and Detroit guard Terrico White were also on the squad. “We had seen, like, all the potential pro prospects and we felt we was just as good as everyone else was,” Mack said.
Hayward agreed, adding that the two never lost focus while in school. “I think it was a goal of Shel and of mine, that we’d one day be in the NBA, but I think what made us so good at Butler is we didn’t think ahead like that. We were just focused on the individual game and worried about winning at Butler at the time,” he said.
Hayward left after his sophomore season, and Mack returned to lead the Bulldogs back into the title game, where they lost to Connecticut. “It was tough to watch that game, because they just didn’t shoot well,” he said. “I’m sure it was tough for Shel to go all the way to the national championship and lose, but I was extremely proud of him.”