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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    McClellan Sees It All

    Arizona guard Jawann McClellan fights for a rebound with ASU guard James Harden in the Wildcats 59-54 loss to ASU Feb. 10 in McKale Center. McClellan was expected to be a significant offensive threat coming out of high school, but he became a glue guy role player after injuries robbed him of some athleticism.
    Arizona guard Jawann McClellan fights for a rebound with ASU guard James Harden in the Wildcats’ 59-54 loss to ASU Feb. 10 in McKale Center. McClellan was expected to be a significant offensive threat coming out of high school, but he became a glue guy role player after injuries robbed him of some athleticism.

    Jawann McClellan never expected to make it to Senior Day.

    Not when the former five-star prospect entered Arizona as the Wildcats’ top player in the class of 2004 and No. 18 player overall as ranked by Rivals.com – ahead of current NBA players Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry, Daniel Gibson, Corey Brewer and Al Horford.

    And certainly not after a promising freshman year in which he played the sixth-man role on an Elite Eight team, leading UA head coach Lute Olson to expect him to be the team’s top shooter and rebounder as a sophomore.

    McClellan planned to depart after his second season, something he said Olson thought as well, as the guard couldn’t help but look to see himself rated highly by ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford.

    “”But things happen for a reason, and I’ve enjoyed my experience here,”” McClellan said. “”I think being here four years has made me become a better person and better man, and I’ve grown up a lot from it.””

    Instead of becoming an impact player for Arizona as a sophomore, McClellan went through the year from hell.

    First his father, George, suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 55, a crushing blow to Jawann, who considered his father his best friend. While spending time in his hometown of Houston grieving with his family, he failed a summer math class, which made him academically ineligible for his first semester.

    Then in just his second game back he injured his wrist and needed season-ending surgery before undergoing another surgery later that spring to repair cartilage in his knees, which have not shown the same burst as when he entered the program.

    McClellan averaged 9.6 points per game last season and is at 8.8 ppg this year, never becoming the elite scorer he was expected to be when coming out of high school.

    Instead he has taken on a glue-guy role, often guarding the opponents’ best players, content to take his opportunities when they present themselves on offense.

    “”Jawann McClellan has been a heart and soul guy for us from day one,”” said UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill. “”He’s played hard, he’s led hard, he’s tried to win every game, he’s been great in practice. You could not ask a guy to do more than Jawann McClellan’s done for this team. He’s doing this year what we need him to do to try to win, and that says a lot about him.””

    McClellan plays nearly the entire game – averaging 36.9 minutes per game in conference play, third in the league behind teammates Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger – but that’s the only category he ranks among the conference’s top 10.

    His scoring has been sporadic, falling short of double figures 18 times, but that doesn’t matter to him either.

    He scored 19 points Thursday at
    Washington in a loss before going scoreless Saturday at then-No. 17 Washington State, while also limiting WSU guard Kyle Weaver to 10 points on 2-for-10 shooting. All that mattered to him was the final score.

    “”It didn’t bother me because the main thing is we got the win, that’s all I’m focused about,”” he said of not scoring. “”I’m not really worried about offense. The important thing is that we won, and we needed the win. I had a good scoring game against U-Dub and we lost, so it really didn’t matter.””

    Still, when teams leave McClellan open, he can nail shots, ranking second in the Pacific 10 Conference during league play in 3-point percentage, at 50 percent. He exhibited that prowess Jan. 31 against USC, going for a career-high 23 points against a defense geared toward stopping Bayless and Budinger, and in his 7-for-9 shooting performance last week in Seattle.

    “”When people put all their focus in on those two, you still have a potential pro sitting on the other side that you’re not aware of,”” McClellan said. “”So I just have to take advantage of all the opportunities and just keep doing what I do.””

    Although you won’t find McClellan’s name on any mock draft sites these days, O’Neill said fans would be shocked at how many basketball people have called him to inquire about McClellan, both in the NBA and overseas. But with the way his college career has gone, O’Neill said the senior would have to play his way into an NBA job.

    He’s been through the Elite Eight run ending with the Illinois collapse, a game he had a chance to win with a shot in the corner, and a pair of disappointing first weekend Tournament losses. He’s also enjoyed a few personal highlights along the way, such as a perfect 3-point shooting game last year, a school record for 3s without a miss (7-for-7).

    McClellan entered Arizona as a blue-chip scorer ready to dart for the NBA but will leave as a blue-collar glue guy who can’t believe his four years have gone so fast.

    “”It’s sad. It’s been a good four years, been an up-and-down four years,”” McClellan said. “”You always talk about you can’t wait to get up out of here but then when the time comes you’re not looking forward to getting up out of here. It’ll be a very emotional whole week, not just Sunday.””

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