Mark Macon shoots jumpers, doesn't he?


COLLEGE PARK -- Let's get one thing straight: Mark Macon has the shooter's mentality, which means he's not like the rest of us. So don't try to project your hang-ups onto him. He doesn't have hang-ups. He has a jump shot. There's a difference.

Take his game yesterday against Richmond. It was typical in that he missed more shots than he made and that it bothered him not at all.

In the closing minutes, he made a huge three-pointer, a shot that put Temple over the top in an NCAA second-round game over Richmond. Asked about it later, Macon wondered, "Did it go in?"

It was a fair question. Usually, the ball doesn't.

Not that it matters.

Macon and Temple are going back to the Meadowlands and the NCAA East Regional, and that's supposed to be traumatic. But you'd have a hard time convincing Macon of that.

It was only three years ago, although it seems like forever, since ++ Macon was allegedly buried and left for dead at the Meadowlands, not far from where Jimmy Hoffa rests. Macon remembers the day, of course. He was the freshman phenom on the No. 1 team in the country, and he shot 6-for-29 with eight air balls and tears to match in a regional final against Duke. Some thought it would ruin his career. Some still do.

Macon said it was just a day like a lot of other days.

"I got over it in 15 minutes," Macon said.


"I've had plenty of games like that," he said. "Five-for-20. Seven-for-21. It wasn't a problem for me."

The funny thing is, you believe him. He has been 5-for-20 and 7-for-21 and 4-for-19 and none of that seems to stay with him either.

He's a shooter. In other words, he doesn't care if he misses. In fact, his attitude is so good that sometimes he doesn't even notice.

Hit or miss, Macon is the same player. Every time he gets the ball is an invitation, and you never have to ask twice. When he's hitting, he shoots until he misses. When he misses, he shoots until he hits. You can see a pattern developing, can't you?

He scored 20 against Richmond, helping to put an end to a nice story about the little team that could (as opposed to Syracuse, the big team that always gets derailed). Macon's scoring was not the difference, however. Temple's improbably aggressive matchup zone simply choked off the Richmond offense.

Macon played his part. He played aggressive defense and shot seven of 18.

His coach, John Chaney, rushed to Macon's defense that day three years ago, saying that his youngster had shot the ball so often only because the coach insisted. And yesterday, all these years later, he said much the same thing.

"He shoots because I want him to," Chaney explains.

That's perfect. You have a shooter with no conscience and a coach who encourages him.

To his credit, Macon can do nearly everything required on a basketball court. He's a 6-foot-5 guard who plays great defense, who rebounds well, and who -- this is especially important for all the NBA scouts in the reading audience -- has the quickness to get his own shot.

The only problem with Macon, who has averaged 20 points a game over his four seasons, is that he must be the worst-shooting great shooter in the college game. And his shot selection isn't so wonderful, either.

"He is a great shooter," Chaney said. "Ask Red Auerbach. Ask any NBA scout."

He looks like a great shooter. He shoots like a great shooter. So why doesn't the ball go in more often?

In this, his senior year, Macon has hit 43 percent of his shots. As a junior, he hit 39 percent. As a sophomore, he hit 41 percent. Yesterday against Richmond, he missed wide-open shots. He also missed shots when he was triple-teamed. In neither instance did he seem particularly troubled.

"I don't worry if I'm not making my shots," Macon said. "I keep shooting until I do."

We learned that early about Macon, who was maybe the only freshman ever to be the leading scorer on a No. 1-ranked team. Macon hit 45 percent of his shots that year, and it seemed like he really could shoot. He was mentioned on All-America lists, as a sure-fire pro prospect, as a player to match the hype.

And then came the East Regional final against Duke. Billy King, the Duke defender, stuck him in his pocket, and, from the looks of it, Macon has been struggling for air ever since.

"We had a team breakfast the next day, and I kept Mark away from reading the newspapers," Chaney said. "We looked at the stat sheet, and I said, 'Didn't anyone else on the team have any responsibility that day?' He was the only guy we had who could break teams down. He had to take the shots."

And he has been taking them ever since, although he rarely seems to hit as many as others think he should.

"I don't worry about expectations," Macon said. "I always have high expectations for myself. No one in this whole universe has higher expectations for me than I do."

And is he satisfied with his career?

"Yes," he said.

There it is. He's happy. His coach is happy. They're back in the final 16 of the NCAA tournament. There's a chance to bury some bad memories, and maybe even the odd jumper. So what could be so terrible?

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