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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Arizona finds new stopper

    Arizona guard Jawann McClellan (5) stays with Texas A&M wing Josh Carter in the Wildcats 78-67 upset of the then-No. 9 Aggies on Sunday in McKale Center. After coming to Arizona as a vicious scorer, McClellan, a senior, has taken on the role of a defensive shut-down player.
    Arizona guard Jawann McClellan (5) stays with Texas A&M wing Josh Carter in the Wildcats’ 78-67 upset of the then-No. 9 Aggies on Sunday in McKale Center. After coming to Arizona as a vicious scorer, McClellan, a senior, has taken on the role of a defensive shut-down player.

    During his time coaching in the NBA, UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill observed that most good teams pay at least two players to be defensive stoppers, one starter and one reserve.

    Senior guard Jawann McClellan has taken over that responsibility of guarding the opponent’s top scorer in Arizona’s improving man-to-man defense, with O’Neill calling him the Wildcats’ best player at locking down his man.

    “”Jawann’s a guy that has become a defensive stopper for us,”” O’Neill said. “”He has a huge heart, he has tenacity, he has intensity. He has a shutdown mentality on the defensive end, and if Jawann’s going to play after he leaves here, that will be his role.””

    O’Neill compared McClellan’s job on the Wildcats to Bruce Bowen’s with the San Antonio Spurs: be a glue guy who plays shutdown defense and hits open shots.

    The adjustment has not been easy for McClellan, his high school’s all-time leading scorer who appeared to be headed for a collegiate career scoring points in bunches following a solid freshman season.

    After missing all but two games as a sophomore and a junior year in which his knees slowed him down the stretch following a strong start, McClellan’s job is to be a complementary scorer rather than a go-to guy.

    He did just that in Sunday’s comeback win against then-No. 9 Texas A&M, nailing a 3 to give Arizona its first lead since trailing by 20 and then hitting another long ball later in the half that put the Wildcats on top for good.

    His outlook wasn’t so rosy after Arizona’s loss to then-No. 4 Kansas, when McClellan did not score in the second half and was not even on the floor for the Wildcats’ potential game-winning shot in regulation. The ball ended up in the hands of forward Bret Brielmaier.

    “”If you’re any kind of player you always want the ball in your hands,”” McClellan said. “”You dream of something like that. I watched (former Wildcat) Salim (Stoudamire) do it numerous times my freshman year, and when you’re a senior you feel like you should have the ball.””

    The next day McClellan met with O’Neill for what he called a “”man-to-man conversation,”” in which McClellan said O’Neill told him he should have received more touches. Forward Chase Budinger attempted 23 shots in that game, and guard Jerryd Bayless took nine from the field and another seven from the free-throw line.

    “”We need Chase to win, that’s no secret, but obviously if you call his number too many times he’s going to get tired,”” McClellan said. “”And you have to remember him and Jerryd, Chase is a sophomore but he’s really only a freshman by age and Jerryd’s only a freshman, too, so you can’t put all the load on their shoulders.””

    Bayless and Budinger have taken care of most of the Wildcats’ scoring this year, averaging just over 48 percent of the team’s points to both rank in the top six in the Pacific 10 Conference in scoring.

    McClellan understands playing with scorers like that is par for the course at Arizona.

    “”When you come to a program like this you have to take it as what it is,”” he said. “”Everybody’s a five-star player or type, kind of All-American, so you just have to do the job that the coaching staff asks you to do.””

    For McClellan, the coaches have asked him to hold down the opponent’s top scorer, and he’s done that job well.

    McClellan helped limit Cal State-Fullerton scoring machine Josh Akognon – averaging 24.2 points per game – to 6-of-18 shooting Wednesday, causing O’Neill to say he did a “”great job.””

    McClellan felt he did a good job on A&M guard Josh Carter Sunday as well, helping limit the Aggies’ leading scorer to 17 points as Arizona made its comeback.

    “”He’s been stopping every scorer on the other team throughout the whole season already,”” Budinger said. “”He’s been doing a great job.””

    During their conversation, O’Neill told McClellan that he loved what the senior has done for the team, even if it does not always show up in the scoring column for McClellan, who’s averaging 9.3 points per game.

    “”I really admire what Jawann’s done,”” O’Neill said. “”Jawann is one of the … integral parts of our team. He realizes what he needs to do to help us win, and if anybody exemplifies being about winning to me right now it’s Jawann. He’s about winning, and I think that’s been very infectious to our other players, especially our younger guys.””

    O’Neill sees an “”absolute correlation”” between the number of players who think about themselves before the team and that squad’s winning percentage. Arizona saw that firsthand the last two years, when questions were raised about the selfishness of the team’s leaders.

    With an eye for the good of the team as a whole, McClellan has accepted the defensive stopper role played by former Wildcat Richard Jefferson on Arizona’s 2001 national runner-up team and Bobby Jones of the Denver Nuggets on Washington’s 2004-2005 team that earned a No. 1 seed.

    “”If he wants me to shut down their best guy every night, I’m going to do that to the best of my ability and just get points whenever the opportunity presents itself, but it is difficult, especially coming in here as a scorer,”” McClellan said. “”If that’s what it takes to win, win a championship, then so be it.””

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