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Men's Hoops: McClellan faces leadership vacuum

Kevin B. Klaus/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Freshman guard Jawann McClellan goes up over Illinois' Roger Powell Jr. during the second half of Arizona's 90-89 overtime loss to Illinois in Chicago Saturday. McClellan is expected to take on a greater leadership role next season.
By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
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Wait Until Next Year

There will be a next year. Freshman forward Jawann McClellan promised there will be a next year.

"If you look at the players coming back for next year, we stepped up and we played our part," McClellan said. "It just makes you hungrier for next year to get over that hump."

If the Wildcats hope to make another run next year, McClellan will have to have a much larger role in the scheme.

In his first season, McClellan gained more than enough experience to take over next season, playing significant minutes and getting tutored by a shooter in Salim Stoudamire and a slasher in Hassan Adams.

In his first NCAA Tournament, McClellan raised his game another level, getting to the point where head coach Lute Olson was able to trust him in crucial moments during the game against Illinois.

McClellan averaged seven points per game in the four tournament games, but it was his mere presence on the court that bodes well for next year's team.

With the game on the line in regulation, it was McClellan who took the possible game-winning shot.

Although he missed, that type of failure can breed success for next year's team. One of the reasons McClellan was excited to play in Chicago was because it was Michael Jordan's hometown. Jordan failed time and time again on shots that could have won games, but it was that failure that allowed him to succeed.

Giving McClellan the opportunity to take that shot meant a lot to him and because of that, he believes it will make him a better player.

"You have Salim Stoudamire, all-everything, and he has no problem with me taking the last shot," McClellan said of Olson. "It shows a lot of confidence in me and really what he expects of me next year when Salim is gone, and maybe Hassan is gone, who knows."

McClellan may be only a freshman, but he is aware of Arizona's past in the tournament, and he didn't take the loss lightly.

"Even though I'm a freshman, it's tough," McClellan said. "It seems like Arizona is in a little slump right now getting to the Elite Eight and not finishing and hopefully we can do that next year. It's going to be a tough task but I'm ready to take on the challenge."

Because McClellan has so much potential, Olson rode him the hardest of anyone and McClellan has said throughout the year that the treatment has been invaluable to him.

Coming into the program after being a high school All-American, McClellan was a chiseled 214 pounds on a 6-foot-4 frame. But after having to defend Oklahoma State's Joey Graham, McClellan thinks he can do better.

"As soon as I get back to school, I have to start working out," he said.

An almost 47 percent shooter on the season, McClellan also thinks his shooting can improve, especially his ability to get his shot off quicker.

"I think that's my main thing is to get stronger and work on my quick release being ready to shoot all the time," he said.

Just as guarding Graham was a learning process for McClellan, he thinks next year's team can take the Elite Eight loss as a way to learn too.

"We never lost two in a row and every time we got a loss, we learned from it, we came back and fought hard the next game," he said.

There was much to learn this season and McClellan is ready to show off what he's learned to Olson. He'll be ready next season to take his talents up another notch. He'll be ready for the tough early season practices because his work ethic has grown immensely.

"Whatever coach Olson is going to throw at me next season, I'm ready to take it and do my job," McClellan said.

Losing two superstars and possibly three, McClellan will have to be ready.

"I can take it on my shoulders next year," he said.

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