Mack: UMass' lone star
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 2/19/1999

Bruiser Flint was home long enough to get in his car and drive off on another recruiting trip yesterday.

As the previous night's 78-72 loss to George Washington demonstrated all too painfully, the UMass coach doesn't simply need to get a scorer for next season.

He needs an army of recruits who can take some of the burden off junior guard Monty Mack, who at the moment is the only Minuteman capable of breaking down a team from one game to the next.

Though forward Chris Kirkland - repeatedly hyped by Flint as the most improved player in the Atlantic 10 Conference this season - has filled in some of these gaps in brilliant fashion, UMass obviously needs more.

The benchings of Lari Ketner and Charlton Clarke for most of the second half only highlighted this team's desperate need for some inspiration.

But until then, they have Mack, the former South Boston High star who has adapted to getting off his shot in the face of the tightest coverage imaginable.

The guard scored 21 of his 24 points in the second half against the Colonials.

Not coincidentally, Mack's offensive surge coincided with Flint's decision to relieve him of guarding Shawnta Rogers, the most dangerous player in the conference.

Winston Smith was instead sent in to chase the 5-foot-4 point guard across the floor, and Mack was allowed to settle in with his shot.

But this luxury is a rare one for Mack.

In addition to being UMass' best offensive player, he is also the team's best defensive guard.

No one has a tougher two-way role to play on any given night.

``I really do need him to play close to 40 minutes every night,'' said Flint. ``I'm wearing the kid down. I'm driving him down. But he's the guy who's been it for us.

``I don't just need some support for him on offense, I also need some help for him on the defensive end. You don't want your leading scorer - one of the best scorers in the league - also having to guard the toughest player on the other team every night.

``Once we can get someone like that to help, then we won't end up running Monty into the ground.''

It was a good thing for Flint, then, that one of his pet issues was finally resolved this week when Atlantic 10 officials finally got around to honoring Mack as the A-10's player of the week.

Flint has been waiting for the better part of an entire season for this to happen.

``He's improved so much from last season that he's now one of the best players in the league,'' said Flint.

``He's our only offensive threat, and people can gear up for him with that in mind. He's better than I ever expected he would be.''


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