NBA Slam Dunk Champion Mac McClung returned to Delaware on Wednesday night, Feb. 22, but the Motor City Cruise spoiled his celebration as they defeated the Delaware Blue Coats 116-111.
Both the Coats and the Cruise came into this game riding winning streaks. Prior to the All-Star break, the Coats had won five straight while the Cruise had a four-game winning streak of their own.
The Cruise came out firing early on. Buddy Boeheim, who scored a career-high 26 points in the game prior, started 4-4 from beyond the arc for his team’s first 12 points of the game. Boeheim finished the game with a new career high of 28 points.
McClung struggled all night long, only scoring seven points on 2-9 shooting. Louis King and Braxton Key led the way for the Coats until King picked up a second technical foul and was ejected early in the fourth quarter.
“Louis [King] is unique,” Head Coach Coby Karl said. “I think people don’t understand how tall he is. He’s a good 6’8″, long arms, lean… I think his shot-making ability is good because of that height. Unfortunately, we lost him towards the end of the game tonight and I think that hurt us but I think he’s a unique player.”
Karl expected that rest could be an issue for McClung. While everyone else was able to rest and recover, McClung did the complete opposite.
“The All-Star break is there for a reason,” Karl said. “It’s there to refresh your body, refresh your mind and step away from it and he [McClung] kind of did the opposite. He put in a lot of work and he mentally stayed engaged to compete in the one game he played in.”
The sluggish game from McClung was something Karl had seen coming since he saw his star player on Tuesday morning.
“I saw it when I saw him yesterday morning before practice,” Karl said. “He just looks exhausted and that’s to be expected.”
Fresh off his triumph in the NBA Slam Dunk contest, McClung felt like things were far from normal, but it wasn’t because of the extra fans and media in the stands — it was his game.
“We really struggled, I struggled a ton tonight,” McClung said. “One of my worst performances in a while but that’s life. I don’t think I’m looking at it any differently than I have been previously… It’s all about the bounce back to see if we as a team can come back and get a win on Friday.”
McClung has now won G League Rookie of the Year and the NBA Slam Dunk contest, but to him, there is no added pressure.
“It’s not really about those surrounding things,” McClung said. “It’s just about progressing each day, even games like tonight can be a lesson. You really get lost in the process and all the nerves and stuff go away with preparation and knowing how hard you’ve worked for it.”
McClung is not satisfied with just the successes he’s had. He still has dreams of competing in the NBA and getting his chance to prove himself.
“I want to be in the NBA,” McClung said. “I want to make an impact. I can’t have nights like tonight but I’m just waiting my turn and I can only control what I can control… It’s easy to say ‘if I get better at this…’ A lot of it is just waiting for your turn, I really haven’t had a turn yet. When I have that turn, I believe I’ll make the most of it.”
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