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The Daily Wildcat

 

McClellan gets coaching job with elder Wise

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Andrew Russell / Arizona Daily Wildcat USC takes down UA in Tucson

As a UA men’s basketball player from 2004-08, Jawann McClellan was known by many simply as “”J-Mac.”” In fact, every time he scored in home games his senior season, McKale Center’s PA announcer belted the nickname over the loud speakers.

Now he has a new name, though it carries much more formality: coach McClellan.

Just a month shy of his 24th birthday, McClellan coached his first game on Monday night as an assistant at basketball powerhouse Yates High School, located in the Houston, Texas neighborhood in which McClellan grew up. The team’s head coach is none other than Greg Wise, the father of current UA basketball players Nic and Dondre Wise.

“”It was a no-brainer for me to bring him on board,”” Greg Wise said. “”I don’t think we’regoing to have him long because he just has everything that you’re looking for in a coach, no matter what level.””

McClellan, who has known the Wise family for nearly two decades, came to Arizona as an All-American from Milby High School in

Houston. After four years as a Wildcat, three under Lute Olson and one under Kevin O’Neill, he played professionally in the NBA Development League and in Belgium.

His pro career was cut short, however, after he hyper-extended his knee. The doctor told McClellan he had bone spurs everywhere and that his playing career was over.

That’s when McClellan knew it was time to coach. He came back to Tucson this past summer to complete his bachelor’s degree in religious studies, and then he got a call from the elder Wise, who needed an assistant.

So McClellan went back to Houston in August to begin coaching and left any hesitancy far behind.

“”I’ve been good (from a coaching standpoint) since I played — that’s one strength of mine,”” McClellan said. “”I was always like a second coach on the floor. That part comes easy. Coaching comes natural to me.

“”I’m confident that I can out-coach a lot of coaches at the college level right now,”” he added. “”But because of my age, I don’t know if people will give me the chance. But it will all work itself out in the end.””

Greg Wise said he has given McClellan total freedom as a coach, and compared his X’s and O’s knowledge to that of former Wildcat and current Memphis head coach Josh Pastner, another Houston product.

“”His knowledge is about as good as he can get for someone his age,”” Greg Wise said of McClellan. “”He’s super. He’s well beyond his years.””

McClellan said he hopes to one day coach for a college team and eventually at the professional level. Yates, however, isn’t a bad place to start.

PrepNation.com has ranked Yates the No. 6 boys basketball team in the nation. The team is also listed No. 9 in the ESPN Rise Fab 50.

The Lions scored 96.5 points per game went 34-1 last season, winning a state title. They came into winter riding a 24-game winning streak.

“”Our thing is, we’re trying to be the best team in the country, and I think we have the best team in the country,”” Greg Wise said. “”I know Jawann has done a lot to make us better. As good as we were last year, we’re even better this year.””

McClellan said the Lions’ style is similar to Nolan Richardson’s 1994 Arkansas men’s basketball team, which won the national championship that season.

“”We’ll play 32 minutes of hell,”” McClellan said. “”We trap the whole game, we press the whole game. We’ll come at you in different ways. We’re trying to get most of our offense off of fast breaks and turnovers.””

McClellan will also be able to get his name out as a coach, as Yates will play in two national tournaments this season — in Hawaii and Alabama — which it didn’t do last season.

“”I’m going to get good experience being with a top team,”” McClellan said. “”And working with Nic’s dad is great. I like that he doesn’t treat me like an average assistant. He lets me get out there and he wants me to say what I have to say.

“”He’s letting me grow as a coach,”” McClellan added. “”This is the best situation I could ask for.””

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