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Mack's draft day begins with calm, ends with emotion

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- It began with a warm embrace from his mother. Shelvin Mack then moved along the line, to friends and other family members in attendance -- including his uncontrollably sobbing younger sister, Sierra, at Malone's restaurant.

After being congratulated by each person -- nearly 25 in all, the former Butler star finally had to walk out of the room, no longer able to contain his pent-up emotions.

After hours of displaying a poker face, Mack finally lost it.

The even-keeled former Butler star, who opted to roll the dice and leave the Bulldogs a year early, joined the celebration with his family and friends following the announcement that he was the 34th pick in the NBA Draft.

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"Then I had to let it all out," Mack said after being selected by the Washington Wizards.

Mack had been the poster boy for "cool and collected" throughout the entire day, from the moment he crossed through the lobby doors of the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort in his hometown of Lexington at 9:30 a.m. until 10:38 p.m. -- when he was informed the Wizards had decided to select him.

Mack went into the day without a clue where he would be headed.

Maybe late first round, maybe even slipping all the way into the late 40s.

No one truly knew. Not his agent, Doug Neustadt, not NBA types -- and certainly not Mack.

However, Neustadt had made certain to prepare his client for each of the scenarios, including the most realistic one, which had Mack's name being called somewhere toward the front end of the second round.

Mack seemed to take the news in stride, buying into the theory that the team and opportunity to play was as important -- if not more so -- than going as high as possible.

"I think I've got a shot at going in the first round," Mack said earlier on Thursday. "But I'm mentally prepared for whatever happens. It's not where you start from; it's where you finish."

Mack knows this well, from his days coming out of Bryan Station High in Lexington as an unheralded recruit to becoming one of the elite college basketball players in the nation.

"I was a two-star recruit," he said. "There were plenty of five-star recruits who didn't end up doing what I did in college."

Two national title game appearances, a remarkable accomplishment anywhere -- especially at Butler, the tiny Horizon league school that shocked the country by advancing to the final game in successive seasons.

"It's about finishing," Mack said. "It's about the right fit and it's ultimately up to me. This is just the beginning of the process."

But deep down, Mack -- even though he wouldn't admit it -- had to be feeling the nerves.

It was admittedly the most important day of his entire life.

Sure, he stayed busy nearly the entire day on Thursday. It started with a visit home in the morning. Then came a stop at the registry to renew his license, followed by a trip to his personal barber, Quinn, at Urbn Cuts.

All along, maintaining that it hadn't truly hit him that he would be achieving his ultimate aspiration: the one he scribbled down on a piece of paper back in the second grade.

"To be a professional basketball player," he wrote.

There was a casual lunch outside at Tin Roof, located just a stone's throw from Kentucky's practice facility. Then came a quick stop to see Leon Smith of 1 Degree Sports Management to sign a couple of documents for the NBA.

Then it was off to meet up with two of his best friends and former high school teammates -- Deire Foxx and Courtney Embry -- for a mid-afternoon workout.

"I really don't think he's nervous," Foxx said. "I think I'm more nervous than he is."

"I know I am," Embry added.

Mack was staying busy -- and it worked.

He was draining NBA 3-pointers in the grill of his two buddies and also a certain writer. He was joking around, laughing -- as if it were just another day.

"I'm not nervous," Mack said. "Not at all."

After the workout, Mack and his mentor, Orees Ivory, walked into the back office of the Dunbar Center and were updated -- via phone -- by Neustadt of the situation.

Neustadt ran down each team and whether there was legitimate interest -- and also informed Mack of the two ranges he could expect to be taken later that night.

One was 29 to 35 and the other from 38 to 45.

After heading back to the hotel and meeting with Mike Kneisley, who works with Neustadt, Mack got ready, left for the restaurant and then waited.

It began with a relaxed, smiling Mack grabbing dinner and taking a seat next to his long-time friend, Kentucky forward Darius Miller. There was no reason to worry -- at least not yet.

"I probably wouldn't be this calm to be honest," Miller said as the names continued to roll out of NBA commissioner David Stern's mouth.

Mack knew he wasn't going in the lottery, anyway.

However, Brandon Knight slipped down to Detroit at No. 8 -- which essentially took the Pistons out of the equation as a potential destination for Mack later in the draft.

Another combo guard and fringe first-rounder, Duke's Nolan Smith, went off the board 21st to Portland. Then came a Horizon League guard, but it was Cleveland State's Norris Cole -- who was chosen and dealt to Miami at 28th in the first round. Another point guard, Texas freshman Cory Joseph, was the surprise pick to San Antonio -- a spot where Mack thought he had a shot -- at 29th overall.

The first round closed and the wide grin that Mack so often is found sporting was no longer there. The room had gone dead quiet as the second round was set to begin.

"Time's going by really slow," Mack said. "Just a lot of waiting."

Some guy named Bojan Bogdanovic was chosen to begin the second round. Then came Justin Harper and former Duke forward Kyle Singler at No. 33.

Then Kneisley got the word from Neustadt -- and delivered it with a whisper to Mack.

"It still didn't hit me," Mack said as he remained quiet as to not spoil the surprise when his friends and family heard his name called on television. "I had to actually see it to believe it."

When he saw it, the room erupted.

"I'm so proud of him," said Mack's mother, Victoria. "I still can't believe it."

Then Mack disappeared -- with tears of joy.

"I hadn't cried in forever," he said moments later. "I can't even remember the last time."

Proving that this was no ordinary day, no matter how hard Mack tried to convince himself.

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