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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “‘Glue guy’ McClellan feeling healthy, playing big minutes”

    UA guard Jawann McClellan jumps for the ball during Arizonas 69-50 win over Fresno State Dec. 16 in McKale Center. The senior said hes in the best shape of his career, which has helped him thrive in his role as the Wildcats glue guy and defensive stopper.
    UA guard Jawann McClellan jumps for the ball during Arizona’s 69-50 win over Fresno State Dec. 16 in McKale Center. The senior said he’s in the best shape of his career, which has helped him thrive in his role as the Wildcats’ glue guy and defensive stopper.

    Earlier in the season Kevin O’Neill was asked by friends outside of the basketball world why he keeps playing guard Jawann McClellan so much.

    After all, he does not possess the ability to take over a game offensively like guard Jerryd Bayless – his only teammate to average more minutes than him – the shooting stroke and leaping ability of forward Chase Budinger or a power game to dominate down low like forward Jordan Hill, but McClellan starts every game and plays heavy minutes just like the Wildcats’ Big Three.

    The reason the Arizona interim head coach hasn’t been hearing that as much lately is for performances like Saturday’s that earned McClellan MVP honors of the Fiesta Bowl Classic win over San Diego State when he scored just seven points but tied a career high with nine rebounds and set one with seven assists in the Wildcats’ 74-58 victory.

    “”The guy is our glue guy,”” O’Neill said. “”He glues us together, he doesn’t make any mistakes defensively, he makes big baskets, he’s a great passer.

    “”He’s done so many good things for us that go a little bit unnoticed when you have Jerryd and Chase and Jordan putting up number points-wise. The things that Jawann does behind the scenes are remarkable for our team. I’m glad he won the MVP, and he deserves that.””

    Taking over a Bruce Bowen-like role as Arizona’s defensive stopper, McClellan has succeeded in slowing down the opponent’s top scorer, such as Saturday when he helped limit Aztec leading scorer Lorrenzo Wade to seven points on 3-for-10 shooting, only the second game of the season he’s finished in single digits.

    The senior also cleaned up the defensive glass, collecting seven of his boards on that end, and aided the offense flow with his team-high assist total.

    “”I just try to do my job defensively and offensively,”” McClellan said. “”I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, the ball was bouncing to me (Saturday), and fortunately I had a good all-around game.””

    Last season the Wildcats saw McClellan play well during the first part of the season, averaging 13.3 points per game as the team jumped out to a 12-1 start. Then his aching knees caught up with him in the second half of the year, limiting him to 7.2 ppg as Arizona slid to an 8-10 mark the rest of the way.

    After playing just under 40 minutes Wednesday at Nevada-Las Vegas, missing a mere 12 seconds after falling on his back and leaving the court grimacing in pain, and 38 minutes on Saturday, McClellan said he does not expect to hit a wall this season because he feels like he’s in the best shape of his career and does not get tired on the court.

    “”I’m not out there limping around like last year, whereas I did break down because I was putting so much pressure on the other knee,”” McClellan said. “”I just think the main thing is I’m just healthy right now, but it’s a long season of course, but I think I can go those minutes.

    “”If I couldn’t go those minutes and I was showing signs that I was slowing down, I don’t think I would be out there.””

    After all, there’s a reason O’Neill is coaching the Wildcats while his friends stick to business.

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