By Roman Veytsman
Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona's Jawann McClellan tries to block Oregon State's J.S. Nash during the first half of Arizona's game against Oregon State at Gill Coliseum on Jan. 22 in Corvallis, Ore.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Sophomore guard Jawann McClellan of the Arizona men's basketball team will not be in uniform for the first seven games of the 2005-2006 season after he was ruled ineligible for the fall semester.
McClellan said he heard about the appeal being denied last week but didn't know his status for sure until this week.
"It's my fault that I'm ineligible, and I have to accept that," McClellan said in McKale Center yesterday. "I've moved on, and I'm really happy because I'm really focused on school right now."
The circumstances of the matter were personal for the Houston native. McClellan was enrolled in a math class over the first summer session and needed to pass to be eligible for the fall.
He said he was receiving a "B" in the class when he heard of his father's death June 12. McClellan said he traveled back home for the funeral and missed about a week of class. Upon returning to Tucson, he said, he was told that there would be too much work to make up by the end of the session.
McClellan took the class again in the second summer session but said he couldn't handle the class with all that was going on in his life.
"I came back this summer to try to make up one hour that I needed, and I just really couldn't concentrate," he said. "When I came back, I wasn't ready to come back for summer two. I was still going through a lot of stuff. I was going to my daddy's grave site every day to just talk to him."
Along with grieving, McClellan said he has also been forced to deal with his favorite cousin facing murder charges and his home in Houston being hit by Hurricane Rita.
The house was flooded, and the carpet is currently being redone, but McClellan said he does feel blessed that it's still standing.
"It's like once I get well, something else happens," he said.
When McClellan found out about his appeal being denied, he was shocked and angered.
"I was surprised by the decision, to be honest," he said. "It (angers me) because they've allowed some players to play that just didn't do their school work. ... It's very frustrating. I don't know what the NCAA thinks about in certain situations, but it hurts."
Arizona head coach Lute Olson said he was similarly stunned.
"I'm obviously disappointed," Olson said yesterday in McKale Center. "I felt that the circumstances of last spring and summer, with Jawann losing his dad, would be a factor in the NCAA decision on this."
McClellan said he thinks about his father every day and misses his presence.
"It'll hit me the first game I come back. Even when he's not there, I know he's watching," he said. "He bought all the Arizona satellite channels to watch every game."
During the second summer session, McClellan said he realized that after about two weeks in the math class, he simply couldn't take it anymore.
"I know my daddy is probably disappointed in me right now that I'm ineligible, for the simple fact that I didn't handle my business this summer," he said. "It was just too hard for me to sit there and focus. Sometimes, I would be sitting in class and my mind would wander thinking about certain situations."
McClellan had a lot of time to think over the summer, and he said he believes it was to his detriment.
Being from a big city, he said, it wasn't healthy for him to have nothing to do a lot of the time.
"I had too much time to think," he said. "That wasn't good. My anxiety was too high, and that wasn't good for my health. But now that all the (other players) are back, I don't have time to sit by myself and just think, which I think happened this summer."
When McClellan finally heard the results of his appeal, he said it made him feel better in a sense because the waiting was stressing him out.
McClellan will be eligible to come back Dec. 17 against Utah if he meets requirements.
"I started thinking about it, and I started looking at it from a positive end, and it's a blessing in disguise my first game back will be on ESPN, so hopefully I can come back and have a strong game."
He will, however, miss the Dec. 3 game at Houston. Not stepping on the court won't bother him as much, he said, because being close to his mom is his main concern.
"I did want to play in front of my friends, but we'll be back there my senior year," he said. "It'll be fun, having the fellas in town and showing them around."
McClellan said he has received support from the entire community, as well as his coach.
Olson faced the death of his wife, Bobbi, who died of cancer in 2001, and McClellan said he feels Olson understands what he's going through.
Olson traveled to the funeral this summer, which McClellan said spoke volumes about his character.
"When he heard about the situation, he told me I didn't have to come back and play," McClellan said. "He just wanted me to get healthy. If I wanted to transfer, they would (have granted the) transfer."
McClellan said the rumors about his possible transfer to Texas were true, and that he was seriously considering it, but in the end, he had many reasons to stay.
"I came real close," he said. "But I know my daddy, my mom and all the people back home didn't want me to come back, because if I went back home, it would be nothing but trouble waiting for me."
Olson was a big factor, as well.
"He's been there for me, and I just had to come back," McClellan said. "When you have a person that wants you to get well and not worry about the basketball end of it - that he cares about you as a person - that's one of the reasons I came back to school."
McClellan will be able to practice with the team but will not be able to travel on road trips. He will have to pay his own way to watch the game at Houston.
Now that the matter is resolved, McClellan said he is ready to move on and eager to get back on Arizona's basketball court.
"I'm so focused right now," he said. "I know what my daddy would have wanted."