Labeled by MaxPreps as, “one of the nation’s most exciting players,” in 2018, Mac McClung
made waves thanks to his acrobatic dunking abilities in high school: the same season Zion
Williamson was going viral for his own style of dunks.
He would go on to college, where he split three seasons at Georgetown (2018-20) and Texas
Tech (2020-21). McClung would go undrafted in the 2021 NBA draft and joined the Lakers for
the 2021 Summer League. Despite his athleticism, Mac has not yet registered a full-time roster
spot in the NBA but continues to be a sparkplug in the G League for the South Bay Lakers.
In a conversation, McClung spoke about his upbringing, the social media buzz, and what present
day Mac brings to the table.
Below is a transcription of the interview:
MB: You grew up in a small town in Virginia (Gate City, VA – a population just under 2,000
as of 2019) — and originally you started playing football. Your mom signs you up for a
basketball youth league around seventh grade. Was it at that moment you decided, “yeah,
I’m going to pursue a career in basketball?”
McClung: So yeah, the high school coach wanted me to play, and I thought that was cool. Coach
Vermillion, he’s one of the guys I’m closest with now but it was always cool because you look
up to those older guys and stuff. So, I was like, “I’ll try it out,” and then I just fell in love with it
ever since. I told my dad I want to do this, and I want to be really good at it. It kind of just took
off from there.
MB: Is it true that your shooting form improved after snowboarding accident?
McClung: Yeah, you got the details, got all the secrets.
MB: I did some digging for sure.
McClung: It was about sixth, seventh grade. I had a terrible shot. I really wasn’t a great shooter. I
broke my wrist and my best friend, Zac Ervin, his dad, Greg, was the old high school coach at
Gate City. So, he helped me change my form and me and Zac started working together every
single day (Zac is at Elon University now). It worked out for both of us pretty well and it’s
thanks to coach Ervin.
MB: Given your family history, everyone was an athlete at some point in their lives. — Dad
was a linebacker at Virginia Tech; Mom was a cheerleader at Virginia Tech; Older sister was
one of, if not, the top high school soccer players in Virginia; Uncle pitched six seasons in the
MLB – Does your competitive spirit come from them, or do you have your own drive?
McClung: I think I always had my own drive. Always had my own personality where I just
wanted to be very successful and do something special with my life. I definitely think I wouldn’t
be half the player I am, or anything, without my sister and my dad. They helped me train every
day. My sister was such a good athlete. I was always jealous of her so that just made me want to
work harder and try to outdo her and she always competed with me. That was a huge help for me
and I’m very grateful for all of that.
MB: Your parents actually built a gym in the basement of their house in Virginia. Was that
meant for her originally and you just kind of took over?
McClung: (laughs) Yeah, that was definitely for her. It was mostly for plyometrics and
weightlifting and my parents would have to kick me out because I kept always trying to interrupt
her sessions and outdo her own drills. But that was also paramount to my success, and I was
blessed to have that.
MB: We have to talk about your dunks. Obviously, they go viral. Drake (rapper) is sending
you direct messages on Instagram to try and snag a Mac McClung jersey, but you’re a guy
who, let’s be honest, is technically a little below the average in terms of height in the NBA.
But you can fly. So, where did this obsession for dunking derive from?
McClung: As soon as I started playing basketball, I fell in love with Jason Williams’ behind the
back passes and as I got older, I just said to myself I really want to dunk. That’s something cool
that I just kept wanting to try and try again. My dad made this program for me – to help improve
his vertical leap – and that’s when it really took off. It helped me become an athlete. I just always
loved it. I was always outside trying to go between the legs on smaller baskets. I recall constantly
annoying my dad and asking him, “you think I’ll be able to dunk? Can I do this? Can I do that?”
A lot of us just love dunking and are obsessed with it. As years go by, I try to create new dunks,
but I will say I don’t think I’m obsessed as I used to be. It’s definitely who I am in a lot of ways.
I know people recognize that as my athleticism and I still have joy dunking, today.
MB: So, we’ll see you in the dunk contest at All-Star Weekend one of these days?
McClung: For sure I’ll be in it.
MB: Speaking on your athleticism, you actually started a program recently as a way to
help others be able to dunk. Can you elaborate on what that will entail?
McClung: I’m really excited to see all the results. It became available for purchase to the public a
few weeks ago. I partnered with Paul Fabritz, the vertical jump scientist who has worked with
James Harden, Andrew Wiggins, among other great athletes, and I went through my program
and wanted to collab with me on it. He’s great creating programs, so we got together and created
the “Mac McClung Jump Program.” I can’t wait to see results because if you’re consistent with
this program, it’s going to work. It’s perfect for people like me, who don’t necessarily have all
the attributes to be a great dunker but then dreams come true and they’ll be able to dunk.
MB: Back to your high school days, you broke Allen Iverson’s Virginia High School
League single-season scoring record. You played at his annual invitational that showcases
some of the best talent around the country. Was he someone you looked up to, given your
similar backgrounds (small town Virginia player, similar playing characteristics, etc.)?
McClung: AI was one of my favorite players growing up. Him, and Rajon Rondo. AI was the
coolest though. I wanted to be just like him. I wore his Nuggets jersey to school probably way
more than I should. But he was my idol. His swag and his confidence were my favorite things
about him. I think in this game you have to sort of steal from everybody. I know when I was
younger, I wanted to be my own self. I wanted to be something that nobody else was. As I’ve
gotten older, I’ve transformed my game to playing like a true point guard. I think my game has
changed a lot since then.
MB: You and Rondo shared some time together during this preseason.
McClung: Rondo was great. That’s why he was also one of my favorites. Just watching him
analyze the game and the way he broke things down. I don’t think he knew, but I watched every
little thing he did, and he probably thought I was weird just staring at him, but he amazed me. He
made me want to take my off-the-court to another level like in. film room sessions. He really
inspired me, and I don’t know if he knows that or not but it’s the truth.
MB: Let’s talk about your call-up. The Bulls make the call. Describe what a moment like
that was for you, to be given that opportunity to suit up in the NBA, even if it was just for a
McClung: I’m really big in manifestation and visualizing things. So, about a week before, I told
myself that I got a call-up, as weird as that may sound. I did that so I would experience all the
emotions of, “I did it. I’m in the NBA.” So, when I actually got the call-up, I was ready. All of
that happiness and excitement is there, but it’s a business and the shot I want to take advantage
of. Compared to my mom who was crying, acting like it was the biggest thing in the world. It
was a long process of work and it felt nice to get that call-up, but my goals are really big, and I
hope to keep staying with the process and achieve some of them. I thought I did really well in the
practices, so hopefully I left a good mark moving forward.
MB: Do nerves play a factor knowing you’re essentially on-call where at the drop of a hat,
*boom* you’re flying to Milwaukee or Utah or Toronto?
McClung: I think it’s important to stay in the present moment, stay the course. Each day I’m just
trying to be the best version of myself, on and off the court, and it’s all the same game. So,
wherever I end up, I’m around great players and I’m just going try and stay myself and really
believe in myself to not just fit in but be a factor at that level. I’m just going to stay the course
and keep working and let it all fall into place.
MB: Let’s shift focus to Austin Reaves. You two shared the court in Summer League.
You’re both from small towns and you both went undrafted. Now he’s playing solid
minutes and producing night in and night out. What’s it like to see him in that position and
does that motivate you to work any harder?
McClung: I think everyone has their own race. I love Austin, that’s my guy. He’s one of the
reasons I watch Lakers games, just to be able to see him perform and succeed. I think we play a
little different. It’s cool he’s also from a small town, like me, but you have to run your own race.
Your race is going to be different. That’s still my guy and I’m super happy for him. He’s killing
MB: Okay, now let’s chat about South Bay and your teammates. Can you describe the
chemistry you have with guys like, Mason Jones, Jay Huff, Andre Ingram, and to be
playing at the level you guys are playing at right now?
McClung: It’s been amazing. I love playing with every single one of them. Working the
backcourt with Mason, he’s such a great player and I think we mesh together well. We have such
a talented team altogether. You can go down the list with Jay, Chaundee [Brown Jr.], and even
guys who come off the bench like Eli [Cain], Nate [Pierre-Louis], those guys are all so talented
and I believe all of them will find their way into the NBA. I think we have such a stacked team.
Everybody has bought in, and it’s been such a great experience, so far. Andre Ingram, by the
way, is my favorite guy on earth. I think more than anything off the court he has helped me so
much. His attitude every day – he’s just the best guy I know and I’m super grateful to be on the
same team as him.
MB: Looking down the road, the Lakers make the call to bring you up. What would it be
like to rock the Purple and Gold jersey and be able to perform in front of Lakers Nation?
McClung: It would be an honor, for sure. I guess it would depend on the situation and what they
need of me in that point in time. I’m ready for whatever happens. I’m staying the course and
know I can bring something good to the team no matter what that is. It would definitely be
excitement and something I would love a lot.