Malik Mack ’27 was relaxing in his dorm room when the notification arrived.
The Bleacher Report had tagged him in an Instagram post titled “Best Freshman In The Country?!” Shared last November via the sports site’s popular hoops account, it was quickly catching fire — with more than 85,000 likes to date.
This was a new level of attention for the 6-foot-1 Harvard men’s basketball guard, at the time just three weeks into his first season with the Crimson. He recalled forwarding the news to a few supportive friends and family members, but something stopped him from fixating. “I didn’t want to pay too much attention to it,” Mack recalled. “I wanted to stay focused on the task at hand: winning basketball games.”
Two days later, Mack brought that concentration to the Crimson’s Nov. 29 triumph over American University. He proved the top scorer at Lavietes Pavilion that evening with 26 points. Mack led the nation’s first-year players in scoring for much of the 2023-24 season. The Ivy League named him Rookie of the Week for the first four weeks of the season and once again in January.
Tommy Amaker, the Thomas G. Stemberg ’71 Family Endowed Coach for Harvard Men’s Basketball, was hardly surprised by Mack’s stellar turn. “This is the type of player and person we know he is,” Amaker said.
A native of Oxon Hill, Maryland, Mack was a standout player at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C. He was just a junior when Amaker approached him about playing for the Crimson.
“Coach Amaker was one of the first coaches to make an offer to me,” Mack recalled. “From that point, we built a great relationship. It was the best opportunity for me to thrive. He was always honest with me and told me what he envisioned I could be for his program.”
Mack went on to have a tremendous senior year, garnering Washington, D.C., Gatorade Player of the Year honors after averaging 15.4 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game. He also led the school to its first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title since 2016.
At Harvard, Mack’s impact on the court was immediate, with 13 points scored against UMass Boston in his very first collegiate-level game. The peak of his NCAA career so far was the Crimson’s Nov. 17 win over UMass, when Mack scored a whopping 32 points — including a dramatic layup to force overtime.
“You can see what makes him special,” said Amaker, pointing to qualities beyond Mack’s ability to sink the ball. “He’s dynamic — he has passing and IQ. He’s very, very bright, sees the floor and game beyond his years. There’s nothing he can’t do.”
The 19-year-old has yet to settle on a concentration at Harvard. Still, he’s settling nicely into campus life with the support of older peers. “My teammates have given me advice on what to do on and off the court,” Mack shared.
His rookie season has come with at least one downside: Mack missed a few weeks after contracting mononucleosis in December. But he seemed to pick up right where he left off in the Jan. 15 match up against Ivy League rival Brown University. The Crimson fell 74 to 72 at Lavietes Pavilion that evening, but the first-year’s excellence was still evident on both ends of the court. He tallied 18 points while leading all players with four steals and five assists.
“It’s been amazing to watch Malik come in as a first-year with so much confidence,” offered Crimson guard Chandler Piggé ’26. “Being able to score the ball at will, but he also loves to get others involved. I look forward to seeing how he thrives throughout the rest of the season.”