By Ryan Casey
Jacob Konst/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sophomore guard Jawann McClellan is expected to play a larger role in the Arizona men's basketball team's offense this season after the departures of former stars Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire. McClellan won't play in the Wildcats' first seven games because he was ruled academically ineligible for the fall semester.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
For sophomore guard Jawann McClellan of the Arizona men's basketball team, the last few months are ones he's likely never to forget.
By now, everyone knows that McClellan failed a summer-session class after the death of his father, George, in June, a development that left the second-year player ineligible for the fall semester.
Earlier this month, Hurricane Rita, one of two devastating hurricanes to hit the Gulf Coast in recent weeks, damaged McClellan's home in Houston, leaving him to worry about his mother, who still resides in the city.
McClellan also learned of murder charges levied against his cousin, which came in the wake of the death of immensely popular women's basketball player Shawntinice Polk.
Finally, after trying to return to the court to help forget about these events, he developed tendonitis in his right leg, leaving him in a boot.
"It's been a very, very difficult summer for him," said Arizona associate head coach Jim Rosborough. "But I think he's back, and lately (he's) seemed like the old Jawann."
Still, when McClellan returns to the court Dec. 17 at Utah, the memory of his father will linger.
"We were more than father and son," McClellan said. "It's going to be hard for me to get out there the first game in December when I come back. Me knowing he's not watching somewhere (is going to be tough), but I look at that as motivation. My teammates are there for me, the coaching staff. The community around here is just a great place to be right now."
"Basketball is an opportunity for him to take all those extra things off his mind and just go have fun," said junior guard Mustafa Shakur.
Given a solid freshman season and the loss of guard Salim Stoudamire, McClellan said he knows great expectations await him, but it doesn't bother him in the least.
|No. 5 GuardSophomore 6-foot-4 225 lbs.Houston2004 stats37 games, 15.5 minutes per game, 5.8 points, 3.0 rebounds per game, .468 shooting percentage (.393 3-point)|
"I can handle that pressure, and I expect to do real well this year," he said.
It may help that McClellan's view of pressure is slightly different from the other 35,000-odd students at Arizona.
"Having a good season, that's not really pressure, because people that come into a program like this are expected to do good here," he said. "However many years you're here, you expect to have at least one good season, so I don't consider that pressure at all.
"What I consider pressure is being on the free-throw line with a second left in the national championship game - the game's tied, and you know you have to hit the shot."
McClellan nearly had the chance to feel that pressure last season, his team falling minutes short of the Final Four in a stinging loss to Illinois that no one on this campus will soon forget.
Someone took a picture of McClellan that day after the defeat: his jersey covering a teary-eyed face.
"That's on the front of my door to this day," he said. "Every time I walk in my room, I see that picture. I use it as motivation.
"When you get to the Elite Eight - I mean, we were right there - now I know how it feels to play at that level and get that far."
McClellan's value to the 2005 edition of the Wildcats has greatly increased since last season, largely because his role on the team expanded as the year wore on.
"The fact is that he played such a key role for us down the stretch last year and he has the game experience," said Arizona head coach Lute Olson.
"(That) is going to be a real big booster for him," Rosborough said. "He was in at crucial times last year down the tournament stretch."
With McClellan out for the first seven games of this Wildcats season, he'll have to wait a little bit longer to get back out on the court and compete.
That doesn't quell his anticipation for the forthcoming season.
"I'm eager to get started," McClellan said. "I can't wait until I can get back on the court to help these guys in December and hopefully just have fun."