Mack Rathbun remembers almost every detail about the time he nearly scored a goal for the Burris soccer team. It was on a header, and the ball hit the ground and bounced into the air, out of the goalkeeper’s reach. But it was also too high, and Rathbun fell to the ground in disappointment. Rathbun, who spent one year playing high school soccer, never scored for the Owls.
While he has vivid memories of his one scoring chance in soccer his junior year, Rathbun had until recently lost count of his scoring total in his main sport, basketball. A recent announcement that he had cracked 1,000 career points came as a surprise to him. He had thought he was still well short of that mark.
“After the Fort Wayne Luers game, then they announced it, and I was just like, ‘Wow,’ ” Rathbun said. “I was completely unaware that I was there. And it was kind of shocking. But yet, I didn’t really think much of it until after the fact. And then it kind of (set) in, like, ‘Wow, you’ve got 1,000 points, that’s pretty good.’ “
Rathbun’s career as an Owl is nearing its end, as he’ll celebrate his senior night tonight with a game against Blue River at Ball Gym. The Owls will then compete in the Class 2A Lapel Sectional.
He has 1,170 points in his Burris career, and has also grabbed 572 rebounds. He’s averaging 24.4 points per game and 10.7 rebounds this season. He’s been selected to play in the 2A Senior All-Star game on April 21 in Lebanon, Ind.
The 6-foot-3 Rathbun is described by his teammates and his coach as a matchup problem, too tall for guards and with too many guard skills for most post players.
“He’s got to be mentioned in the list of all-time greats (at Burris), at least to me,” said coach Greg Hitchens, a former Burris player. “But, again, he’s put the time in to be the player that he is today.”
Rathbun grew up idolizing the Indiana Pacers, and played on a mini hoop when he was too little for the real thing. He remembers his parents taking him out for a team in second grade, and after a successful tryout, he began playing the sport he loved on an organized level. He hasn’t stopped.
Hitchens, who’s in his second year coaching the Owls’ varsity team, coached Rathbun at the AAU level in middle school as well. He also briefly coached Kellen Dunham before Dunham went on to play at Pendleton Heights and Butler. To Hitchens, there are similarities between the two players.
“I coached (Dunham) for a few games, and those guys, they work so hard,” Hitchens said. “I know Mack’s biggest thing that he did was he got in the weight room the last three or four years, and really put some weight on him. … He lives in the gym. If he’s not (at Ball Gym,) then he’s over at the Y. If there’s an opportunity for Mack to play, he’s somewhere playing.”
When he’s not on the basketball court, Rathbun might be found playing the NBA 2K13 video game on the Playstation3 with his friends. Teammate Isaiah Anderson, who’s grown up attending Burris with Rathbun, jokingly describes Rathbun as a “big kid.” Asked if he’s a sore loser when he falls in a video game, Anderson says Rathbun is, but just like the rest of the group.
“We all are, honestly, we’ll all talk smack back and forth during the game,” Anderson said. “But whoever gets beat, you probably won’t hear from him for the next 10 or 15 minutes.”
While he’s still a high-schooler who enjoys playing a basketball video game with his friends, Rathbun also carries an aura of seriousness when he talks about his future. His plans beyond Burris are undecided.
College basketball coaches have contacted Hitchens to express interest in Rathbun, many of them at the Division III and NAIA levels. A junior college in Michigan has also come into the picture, Hitchens said.
Rathbun has yet to decide for certain whether to play college basketball, though, and is also considering focusing on academics and giving up the sport competitively. He wants to pursue a career in the medical field, though he hasn’t figured out an exact major.
As he considers schools where he could play basketball, he also considers how the decision would affect his future beyond the game.
For a person who’s been ultra-focused on basketball since he was a child, it’s a difficult crossroads.
“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Rathbun said. “I’m growing up. And basketball, I’ve realized, people have told me over the years, that it’s just such a small part (of life.) And if basketball is the best thing that’s ever happened to you, then you’ve had a terrible life. Because there’s so much more than just basketball.
“It kind of (stinks), because I just love basketball in general. I’ve always been around it, with my family, and just my friends, playing 2K on the weekends. And watching the All-Star Game (last) weekend, the NBA and college. It’s just so much fun, but I just realize, hey, reality sets in. You can’t play basketball forever.”