Shamir Davis, William Mosley, Kendrick Washington, Corey Ellis and Kyle Jones stopped by the Huntington gym last week for some pickup basketball against the school’s current team.
For the five former Raiders, Huntington will always be home.
Once you play for Mack Jones, you are family.
“Coach Jones has open arms,” said Davis, who wrapped up his college career with Northwestern State this spring. “For any of his former players, it doesn’t matter if he hasn’t talked to you in years. If you call him up or want to go by the gym, he’ll be there for you. It’s still a big family.
“Coach Jones takes pride in his coaching, and off the court, the kids love him. I can go up there and see the students still flocking to him, cracking jokes with him. He keeps everyone right. Makes sure their heads are right. That’s just who he is.”
Mack, who is prepping Huntington for summer league play which will start this week, knows Shreveport basketball. After two years as an assistant at Byrd, Mack landed his first head coaching job at Woodlawn. He was 24.
“I was young, but I think I was born to be a leader,” said Mack, who played at Green Oaks High School and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. “I wanted to be a positive influence on young men’s lives. There’s never been a moment when I second guessed myself for coaching. I work the same way whether we win 20 or five.”
Mack, 47, spent more than a decade leading Woodlawn before taking over at Huntington. He has led the Raiders to six straight district titles – Huntington has six 30-win seasons in his decade with the program – and has been to the Top 28 twice.
Davis remembers a home game against West Monroe in 2009. Huntington was 25-1 going in but trailed by 13 at the half and by 14 going into the fourth quarter. The Raiders had expected to roll to a victory. Instead, their energy was down and the team leaders weren’t performing. So, in the locker room at halftime, Mack pumped his team up. The Raiders responded with a two-point comeback victory.
“He told us that our leaders hadn’t shown up to play, so he was going to put in the younger guys to bring passion,” Davis said. “We had been flat, but he really rolled us in that locker room. He got onto us and chewed us out. But then he picked us back up when we got back in the game. He really motivated us.
“He has always been very animated. He always put it on himself to prepare us enough, no matter if the other team was better, for us to come out with a win.”
But Mack has brought much more than energy and successful records to Shreveport in the past two decades. His example and guidance has helped change lives past high school hoops.
“Coach Jones loves a challenge, and at Woodlawn, he had a lot of underprivileged kids,” said Ced Johnson, who played for Mack at Woodlawn, graduated in 1999 and went on to play for BPCC and ULM. “He put in so much time with his players. Hours and hours of giving rides, taking seven or eight kids home after practice. He is an old school coach. He does all of the small things. It’s not all about winning for him.”
Johnson had attended multiple schools before he found his home at Woodlawn.
“I was a troubled kid, but he really cared about me,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have anything, and he took me in. I had no where, no way. He’s a great person. It’s tremendous how he has done it for so many years and cared for so many kids. He’s built for it.”
Now, Johnson is a business owner in Orlando, Fla. He also coaches a traveling girls basketball team and works with the NBA’s special events. Mack has stayed connected to Johnson, as well as many other former players.
“Coaching isn’t hard, because I played the game,” Mack said. “It’s the disciplining that’s tough. I’m not the easiest guy to play for. I expect a lot from the kids. If you want to be a champion, you have to push them hard. But what I get out of it isn’t necessarily from the wins. It’s from watching them develop off the court. What are you going to do when the ball stops bouncing?”
Like many other former players, Davis continued to rely on Mack after high school.
“When I was at Northwestern and going through some things, he was the person I called,” Davis said. “He could relate to what I was going through. He was a guard in college, like me. I’ve always leaned on him, and I still do.”
According to Davis, one of Mack’s go-to phrases is, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but not everyone wants to die.” The phrase has a deep meaning for Davis, Mosley, Washington, Ellis and Kyle Jones, Mack’s son, who also played for Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The current class of Raiders will eventually learn it’s meaning.
“Everyone wants the glory, but not everyone will put in the sacrifice and hard work behind the scenes,” Davis said. “Coach Jones told me from day one that I was on campus that it was going to be tough. He doesn’t give away anything for free. You have to earn your place. But we became a family.”