The 2022-23 Tennessee Volunteers have developed a reputation as one of the toughest teams to score against in all of college basketball. They allow a meager 54.4 points per game, second only to Houston nationally — and it’s a big reason why they’re 16-3 and ranked No. 4 in the country.
The type of culture head coach Rick Barnes has built in Knoxville since his arrival in 2015 is one of defensive-minded toughness and tenacity — perfect for a player like Jahmai Mashack.
just another Mashack Monday pic.twitter.com/KquSp6ba7S
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) September 12, 2022
Mashack, a 6-foot-4, 201-pound sophomore shooting guard from Fontana, California, prides himself as being a defensive stopper for the Volunteers.
“I just love the feeling of being able to crack down on defense and stop somebody else from scoring,” Mashack told RockyTopInsider.com earlier this month.
“He is someone we depend upon every game to come in, defend, get big stops, guard the other team’s best player, make open shots,” assistant coach Rod Clark told RockyTopInsider.com. “Bring that toughness and that edge that we need as a team.”
Mashack played only 4.6 minutes and scored 0.7 points per game on last season’s team that finished 27-8 and won the school’s first SEC Tournament title in 43 years. This year however, after an offseason spent working tirelessly on his offensive game, his minutes have jumped to 16.8 per game. He now averages 4.1 points per game while maintaining his trademark defensive energy, demonstrated by his 1.5 steals per game.
Barnes learned pretty early on in the recruiting process that Mashack would be the type of player on the court and person off the court that would thrive in Knoxville.
“I can remember [associate head coach Mike Schwartz] telling me, ‘Coach, he’s our kind of kid and we absolutely want him in this program,’” Barnes told RockyTopInsider.com. “Everything that we’re about, we want him here. He has not disappointed us any way like that.”
It’s only natural that a player with the work ethic and defensive ability like Mashack would find his way onto the court in a Rick Barnes-led program. But Barnes’ playing style is not what ultimately lured the four-star high school prospect across the country to join the Volunteers.
“I think Tennessee really stood out to me because of one, they really announced that they were close with the Lord and that was a big thing for me,” Mashack said. “Coach Barnes has been outspoken with his Christianity and his religion. I think that was one of the biggest things for me with joining this program.”
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The grandson of a pastor, Mashack is eager to speak about his faith in Christ.
“I’m encouraged by him because he’s not afraid to talk about [his faith],” Barnes told RockyTopInsider.com.
An example of Mashack’s boldness came earlier this year when Tennessee followed up a defeat to Colorado in the team’s second game of the season with a convincing 81-50 victory against Florida Gulf Coast. After the game, in which Mashack scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds, he was asked what helped him to bounce back after the loss.
“Well, first it’s God,” he said, according to 247Sports.com. “I spend a lot of time with Him.”
With Mashack’s increased role on the team has come an increase in autograph requests, especially from young Volunteers fans. It’s an opportunity God has put in front of him, Mashack says, that he wants to leverage for God’s glory.
“I want to use this platform I have with basketball to reach other people and bring others to Christ,” Mashack told RockyTopInsider.com. “That’s probably the biggest thing for me, just trying to bring others to Christ and using this as something just to reach out to people.”
Mashack’s platform to share about his faith in Christ will only grow larger as March approaches and Tennessee keeps winning. The Volunteers’ next game is at home against Georgia on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET as they try to overtake Auburn for second place in the SEC.
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