For much of Wyoming’s 2017-18 basketball season, a black travel bag sat on the floor of the closet in the 7220 Room next to a soda cooler and ice cream machine. It didn’t see much use this year.
The player with his name on the bag, freshman Anthony Mack, only flew to one road game this season. Mack missed practice time because of concussion issues in the preseason and eventually decided to redshirt because of them.
“I was just fighting against time,” Mack said. “And with the team, I think it was better for the team and me personally and the coaches.”
Mack had been a big get for the Cowboys in their 2017 recruiting class. The Las Vegas native had scholarship offers from numerous Power Five schools and received a late offer from then-defending national champion Villanova.
He had been confident in the fall that he would see the court as a true freshman, even although his concussion issues had already reemerged. Once a tight end, had had a pair of concussions in both football and basketball before coming to Wyoming.
His one flight this season was for Wyoming’s game Jan. 10 in New Mexico.
“And that probably wasn’t a good choice because The Pit,” Mack said. “That was probably one of the loudest places.”
He said he the concussion issues flared up by halftime. Then, on the flight back, his nose started bleeding.
“They found out the elevation was the issue, and I wasn’t getting enough oxygen then,” he said. “So I couldn’t take (my migraine) medicine because of the nosebleeds. So now I’m doing oxygen every day. And that’s what really helped. So I’ve been getting enough oxygen in my brain.”
Mack had been hoping to travel to Wyoming’s game the week before at Nevada. But the day before, he woke up with a migraine and ended up not making the trip.
“That day, the day before the flight on January 3 was when I realized it was too much pressure on me,” he said. “I was getting, not depressed, but more just like angry. I was getting frustrated. I wasn’t really being my normal self, because I just kind of kept working. I’d have a good spurt, and then I’d just get set back to the first thing, and then you’ve got to sit out another week.
“So, I was getting more frustrated, and it was going to be better for me and more positive if I just sat out. And it was better for the coaches.”
Mack said there wasn’t any pressure put on him one way or another during his recovery.
“After I decided it, I actually felt better, just because I told my coaches and my father,” he said. “But everyone told me that they were going to have me do that decision. Even (head coach Allen) Edwards, everybody wanted me to make that decision, not anybody else. And my father the same way. So I think it was just the right time for me personally. I think it was kind of like weight off my shoulders.”
Mack said he won’t return to contract drills in practice until after the season, because he didn’t want to risk catching another errant elbow.
“I’ve been lifting probably four times a week,” he said. “I do conditioning probably four times a week, and then I do all the non-contact in practice. ... So I think we’ll have that little spring break, and then after the season, I think that’s when we’ll have our runs here. I’ll start doing that stuff. I’m excited about that, because I normally get in the summer with people. So I don’t want to risk it at all. I want to be 100 percent for the season.”
At the beginning of the year, Mack wasn’t even able to sit on the sideline for home game because of the lights and crowd noise. He made his debut on the bench Dec. 12 against Eastern Washington. Even though his freshman year has gone far differently than he expected, Mack has found ways to make the most of the experience.
“Just watching our play style and watching all the teams I’m going to play next year,” he said. “So like Air Force, the Princeton offense, I get to be on the sidelines and actually watch, and I got different perspectives of being there with the players, so I’m in the locker room and stuff. But I’m also kind of like technically a coach on the side, where I can see the plays and all the players in motion. I like it. I’m learning it a lot, so just making it a positive.”