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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Right Attitude

    Junior guard Jawann McClellan dribbles with his left hand as he looks for an opening in Arizonas loss to Washington State Thursday in McKale Center. McClellan was a starter that day but came off the bench Saturday against Washington and will continue to be the teams sixth man, according to UA head coach Lute Olson.
    Junior guard Jawann McClellan dribbles with his left hand as he looks for an opening in Arizona’s loss to Washington State Thursday in McKale Center. McClellan was a starter that day but came off the bench Saturday against Washington and will continue to be the team’s sixth man, according to UA head coach Lute Olson.

    When Jawann McClellan was in middle school, he didn’t have the same “”unselfish”” label his men’s basketball teammates bestow on him these days.

    During a Boys and Girls Club game, McClellan’s late father, George, became tired of McClellan’s “”bad attitude”” and decided he would teach his son a lesson.

    “”He was very embarrassed about my attitude, and he came home crying one night and just took the ball away from me for about a month,”” McClellan said. “”That taught me a lot.””

    Lesson learned.

    When UA head coach Lute Olson told McClellan he was rearranging the starting lineup, sending freshman forward Jordan Hill in ahead of him, McClellan, a junior, didn’t blink.

    Instead, he thought back to that day at the Boys and Girls Club. He thought back to what his father might say.

    “”Once my daddy took the ball away, it just taught me that other people didn’t want to play with me,”” McClellan said. “”It’s not only one player out there playing with you. That taught me a lot about being unselfish. Sometimes you just have to put your ego aside.””

    McClellan isn’t the first Wildcat with considerable talent to put his ego aside. In 1997, current Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry checked his pride at the door and asked Olson for a bench role in favor of Miles Simon, who was coming back after being academically ineligible.

    With Terry as a starter, the Wildcats were steamrolling opponents, winning nine of their first 11 games, including wins over No. 7 North Carolina, No. 3 Utah and No. 18 Texas.

    “”J.T. and the rest of the guys on the team were all about the team; it’s not shocking or surprising that he would do that,”” said Simon, who added that he didn’t know about Terry’s discussion with Olson. “”I think any one of us would have done whatever they thought was best for the team to help us win.””

    In his first game off the bench, Saturday against Washington, McClellan also helped spark Arizona, scoring 15 points and providing an emotional lift.

    “”Emotionally, they’re very much the same, both very personable, outgoing people,”” Olson said of McClellan and Terry. “”They play hard, and everything is about team.””

    The athletes are going through similar situations off the court as well. With Terry’s mother , Andrea Cheatham, still battling a series of illnesses and the death of McClellan’s father in 2005, their life stories brought them closer together.

    The two spoke together over the summer, and McClellan said he became close with Cheatham.

    “”We talked about family, about his mom being sick and my daddy passing away,”” McClellan said. “”We’re both family men coming from the situation.””

    On the court, things worked out for Terry. In his senior year, he went on to win several national player-of-the-year awards and was drafted No. 10 overall by the Atlanta Hawks.

    Terry was stuck in obscurity on a bad Hawks teams, yet still put up more than 16 points per game.

    “”A lot of people forgot about him,”” McClellan said. “”He was putting up the same numbers he is in Dallas; it’s just about being on a winning team.””

    For McClellan, obscurity came as a result of injuries. A fractured wrist and academic ineligibility caused him to miss all but two games of his sophomore season, and a knee surgery over the summer slowed him down further.

    Olson showed McClellan tapes of the ’97 national championship game when Terry was called on to play 20 minutes, filling in for forward Michael Dickerson.

    McClellan said the tape gave him a perspective on his new role.

    “”He made a big difference … Jason Terry stepped up in that game,”” McClellan said. “”It doesn’t always matter who starts; it’s who finishes.””

    But McClellan hesitated to put himself in the same company as the man he calls his “”mentor.”” After all, Terry’s accomplishments have trumped anything McClellan has done.

    “”My name being mentioned with his name is just an honor, because right now I don’t consider myself to be in the same shoes as him,”” McClellan said.

    Although Olson said Terry and McClellan are different kinds of players, he sees the resemblance in their character.

    “”(McClellan) has always been an unselfish player, but what he’s giving us now is an emotional lift off the bench because he’s a rah-rah type of guy, and that’s what we need, someone like that who brings a lot of energy,”” Olson said.

    And McClellan thinks coming off the bench will benefit him in other ways as well. Olson told him to not stand during huddles prior to coming into the Washington game so he could rest his knees.

    “”It saves my knees without pounding on them for a lot of times,”” McClellan said. “”Plus, I just bring that extra spark, and coach knows I’m not the type of person to be selfish.””

    His unselfishness has rubbed off on his teammates. While he could have been bitter toward Hill, he has been the opposite.

    “”He’s like a brother to me, and I just listen to him,”” said Hill, who added that he joins McClellan on outings to the mall. “”He’s a veteran, and he gives me a few pointers, and I just take it in.

    “”He comes from the same environment, so that really helped me out.””

    The unselfishness Terry showed rubbed off on McClellan, whose influence may make Hill next in line to pass on the concept of sacrificing for the team.

    For now, McClellan is happy with whatever situation Olson decides is best. He knows that whatever happens, he’ll never relive what happened that day in middle school.

    “”I really don’t care what my role is, and being a sixth man, I still have big role because coach already told me if I don’t produce, we probably won’t play good,”” McClellan said.

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