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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    McClellan set for Eurotrip

    McClellan set for Eurotrip

    Brandon Jennings isn’t the only basketball player with recent UA ties heading to Europe next season.

    After getting a chance to strut his stuff with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, an injury dropped former Wildcat Jawann McClellan from the summer team, delaying his dreams of making it to the NBA.

    Rather than taking part in the NBA’s Developmental League, where players get paid $12,000-$24,000 per season, McClellan and his agent Stephen Pina are looking at Europe as a means of a professional career.

    “”Right now I’m getting some qualifying offers from Europe,”” McClellan said in a phone interview this past weekend. “”I should have something down within the next week or two.””

    The D-League allows players to play in front of NBA scouts every game with the chance to be called up, but the promotion to the big show doesn’t happen as often as players would like. The currency overseas is also more appealing to players, with a euro equaling about $1.58 American dollars.

    “”I have to make money, man,”” McClellan said. “”I’m not gonna make any money playing in the D-League.””

    The guard has played in Europe twice before as part of the USA Youth Festival in 2003 and 2004 Global Games.

    “”The only thing new is that I’ll be getting paid to play,”” he said. “”It’s the same thing as the NBA. It’s a job, really. You have to go in there knowing that the European game is hard. They don’t give Americans a lot of calls, so you have to just go in there and do the best you can.””

    McClellan was cut from the 76ers on July 10, four days after beginning camp in the Las Vegas summer league. But after he felt back spasms on the first day of practice, he didn’t practice the rest of the week.

    It’s the same story all over again for McClellan.

    He was one of the best players in Texas throughout high school and was named a McDonald’s All-American. He came to Arizona with huge potential as a ferocious shooter.

    But then he suffered ankle, knee and wrist injuries – the latter two involving surgeries. His cousin faced murder charges. His Houston home was flooded by Hurricane Rita. His father and best friend, George, passed away in 2005 at age 55, which led to Jawann’s ineligibility caused by academic struggles.

    And after a new role on the court last season as a senior, McClellan has seen it all.

    With UA head coach Lute Olson absent all of last season, interim head coach Kevin O’Neill gave McClellan the “”glue guy,”” defensive shut-down role, rather than having him as a go-to scorer.

    “”He glues us together, he doesn’t make any mistakes defensively, he makes big baskets, he’s a great passer,”” O’Neill said during the season. “”He’s done so many good things for us that they go a little bit unnoticed when you have Jerryd (Bayless) and Chase (Budinger) and Jordan (Hill) putting up number points-wise.””

    McClellan kept in contact with Olson, who still serves as a father figure to him, throughout last season, seeking advice for how to get through his new role.

    “”He’s helped me out a lot,”” McClellan said. “”Even this past year, behind the scenes I talked to him. I told him that basketball wasn’t fun for me. I just got back out there and did the best I could.

    “”I’m going back to the old Jawann, just being a scorer and being aggressive,”” he added. “”A lot of people need (the ‘glue guy’) role and if I have to do it again to get where I have to be, then so be it. But I’m looking at this as a fresh new start.””

    McClellan spent the spring working out in Philadelphia. There, he got advice from former Wildcat and Philly native Mustafa Shakur, who spent this past season playing in Poland.

    During the spring, McClellan worked out for three NBA teams, including the 76ers three times. On June 27th McClellan got the call from the 76ers informing him that he caught the team’s attention during his workouts. He hung up and tears started flowing, he said.

    “”I think that would work out pretty good,”” former Wildcat and current 76er Andre Iguodala said later that day. “”I talked to our people and they said he worked out pretty well. I’ll be there for him.””

    Despite the injury limiting his chances, McClellan has always seen the glass as being half-full. He won’t be on an NBA roster this upcoming season but going to Europe is still a way for him to make money playing ball, which was his eventual goal.

    “”A lot of these kids have to realize that Europe and the NBA, they’re the same thing. It’s just the NBA is here,”” McClellan said. “”You get paid a lot of money to play basketball. And the business side of it is that you’ve got to feed your family now and everybody’s out there trying to get their job.

    “”It’s not like college where it’s a family atmosphere,”” he added. “”You can wake up and somebody’s been traded or somebody’s been cut. You have to just take it for what it is and enjoy the moment each and every time you step out on the court.””

    Under his interests, McClellan lists “”Making it to the NBA,”” on his Facebook profile. But he’s thankful for having the opportunity to make money as a professional athlete, whether it be here or overseas. He could be doing something else and not having as much fun.

    “”A lot of people have to realize that being paid to play a sport is the best job in the world because you’re only doing it three, four hours a day,”” he said. “”Those people who want to be lawyers and doctors have to go to school for four or five more years after the fact that they’ve gone to school for four years.””

    Maybe next year McClellan will have another shot at the NBA. Maybe in five years. Whenever the time comes, he’ll be ready.

    “”I’m not gonna sit here and mope around,”” he said. “”(Being with the 76ers) was a great opportunity. Like I said, they did not want to cut me. They told my agent they were more than likely going to keep me.

    “”But it just motivates me to work harder,”” he added, “”and then maybe one day I’ll get there.””

    McClellan on Jennings:

    Though Jawann McClellan will be playing ball in Europe next season, he is not the main focus of all Arizona fans. Former Wildcat commit Brandon Jennings recently signed a three-year, multi-million dollar contract to play for an Italian team.
    McClellan said he has mixed emotions about the situation.

    “”Me and (former Wildcat) Hassan Adams were talking about the situation last week and you know, the only thing that I could tell him is that Arizona prepared me for life,”” McClellan said. “”It just prepared me for life in general. And I think (Jennings) is going to miss out on a year of college or whatever he planned on doing.

    “”(Former Wildcat) Jerryd (Bayless) was going to come back. You know, college is fun. It’s what you make it out to be. And he has to realize that going over to Europe is not going to be a gimme. He’s going to be with grown men who are over there to feed their families. Hopefully he doesn’t expose (his weaknesses) and hurt himself for next year’s draft because I guarantee you a lot of these NBA teams are sending scouts over there to watch him. It could hurt him but I wish the best for the kid.””

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