‘Shy guy’ guard grows into reliable shooter for men’s basketball

Media Credit: File photo by Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Sophomore guard Maceo Jack takes a free throw during a game against VCU earlier this season.

Unlike fellow sophomore guards Terry Nolan Jr. and Justin Mazzulla, sophomore guard Maceo Jack is a quiet presence on the court.

You won’t see him slapping the floor in celebration after scoring because he favors a calmer demeanor on the court than his teammates.

But Jack carries a proverbial big stick in the form of sharp-shooting skills from beyond the arc. His 36.5 shooting percentage from the perimeter pins him eleventh among Atlantic 10 competition, and he currently leads the Colonials with 50 made three-point shots on the year.

Earlier this season, Jack was averaging 4.3 points per game coming off the bench but found himself consistently in the starting lineup after redshirt junior guard Armel Potter was sidelined for a month with an ankle injury in November.

“I was a little bit nervous at first, but I eased into the role,” Jack said. “I knew that my teammates needed me to produce, they needed me to be a great defender, and once I realized what I was doing it for, it wasn’t that hard of a shift for me to make.”

Now he’s picking up 10.6 points per game as the team’s third-highest scorer, and is averaging 13.3 points per contest in conference play, second only to redshirt junior guard DJ Williams. Jack has picked up three 20-point-plus games and has tied his career-high 23-point mark twice in the schedule.

During the team’s loss to Duquesne Saturday, Jack put up 20 points against the Dukes on 7-for-9 from the field and 3-for-4 shooting from the perimeter.

“Right now, all that we’re seeing is the fruits of his labor,” head coach Maurice Joseph said. “He’s a guy that works his tail off every single day.”

Joseph said Jack’s “no distractions” mentality has driven him throughout the season, even when he wasn’t getting time on the court. Jack averaged 2.8 points per contest in 8.3 minutes of action per game as a rookie, while his teammates Nolan and Mazzulla were chipping in double-digit minutes on the court as first-years.

But instead of complaining, Joseph said Jack put in the work behind the scenes to improve, even if he wasn’t seeing action.

“He’s a guy that, when he wasn’t playing as a freshman, he would come in and do his routine and do his work,” Joseph said. “It wasn’t angry parents or angry AAU coaches, it was just, ‘alright, I’m not playing, what can I do to make myself get a chance to play?’”

Toward the end of the 2017-18 season in the final six games of the year, Jack was averaging 11.7 minutes per match while picking up 6.2 points per contest.

Jack said the biggest obstacle he had to overcome this season was his confidence and mentality on the court.

“I’ve always had the ability to play this way, but I think it was the mental side I had to grow,” Jack said. “I had to be more confident under the system I was in and once I did that, I was able to really flourish and grow as a player and as a man as well.”

Behind the scenes, Jack said he has been getting in extra workouts in the gym, perfecting his shot in shoot-arounds and honing his ball-handling skills with Mazzulla alongside him. Jack said being able to lean on Mazzulla throughout the season has helped him “blossom” into the player he is today.

“He’s always been the confident one. I’ve been the shy guy,” Jack said. “Me leaning on him has helped me become more confident.”

Spending extra time at the gym has been second nature for Jack, because his mom, Felisha Legette-Jack, has been the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Buffalo for the last seven years, he said. But
despite his comfort on the court, playing basketball with the same group for a year helped him get more comfortable and confident in the past year, he said.

“I really had to grow because coming into college I was really shy. I wasn’t really confident in myself,” Jack said. “And this year, being around people I’m really close with, my teammates, we’ve really grown a lot in the locker room and us being that close and me leaning on them, them leaning on me, I think it blossomed into me being able to play well.”

The Colonials have six games left in the regular season before the A-10 Championship in March. Jack said he wants to personally help his teammates win their remaining games and if the Colonials are able to buckle down on defense and remain close on the court, they should be able to find success in their remaining games.

“I want to let my teammates know that I’m going to play hard every single possession,” Jack said. “I don’t care what’s happening in the game, I’m going to give it my all.”

The Colonials return to action Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Massachusetts at the Smith Center.

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