Red-Blue game analysis: McClellan draws strength from late father after injury

By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 4, 2005

Despite nursing an injured ankle, sophomore guard Jawann McClellan had to play in the Arizona men's basketball team's Red-Blue Game last night, and there was only one reason.

His late father.

With his mother traveling from Houston to watch her son from the McKale Center stands, McClellan gritted his teeth and went to work.

"I'm not only playing for myself, I'm playing for somebody else," he said.

The pressure may have cost him. With 4:20 to go in the first half, McClellan ran the left baseline, drove to the basket for a right-handed layup and landed himself in the locker room.

There was little contact on the play, and no foul was called, but McClellan fell awkwardly on his right ankle and proceeded to limp off the floor toward the locker room, grimacing in pain.

"The good news is he couldn't have come down harder than he did, and there was no damage at all," said Arizona head coach Lute Olson

"It tweaked a little bit, and I just got real scared," McClellan said.

Doctors told the sophomore at halftime that the fall might actually have been a good thing. Some bones in his ankle started to chip off, causing the bone spurs to slowly disintegrate.

McClellan was re-taped in the locker room at halftime and jogged back onto the court a couple of minutes into the second half.

He said the ankle didn't feel any better at that point, but he was able to settle into a groove despite the pain. McClellan scored eight of his 14 points after halftime and appeared more aggressive, getting to the free-throw line four times.

"I just wanted to get back out for the fans in the second half because I don't know when they'll see me play again," McClellan said, alluding to the possibility that he will have to sit out the first seven games of the Wildcats' season unless his second appeal for academic eligibility is approved.

With only a few minutes left in the game, redshirt senior forward Isaiah Fox bumped into McClellan, knocking him to the floor. The sophomore quickly got to his feet, showing no signs of injury.

"I know (my father) would tell me to get up and fight through it," McClellan said. "I can hear him in my ear, 'Get up,' and that's what I tried to do."

Before the game, McClellan pointed up to the sky in honor of his father, who passed away in June. He said that he would be making that tribute in every game that he plays.

Freshman forward Marcus Williams, who finished with 21 points last night, said he thought he took advantage of McClellan not being in the game, but that he took a lot of motivation from seeing McClellan return.

"That's a lot of heart," Williams said. "He's a warrior. You can tell he was in a lot of pain and he was getting iced at halftime. He just ran off the court. I was praying that it wasn't bad, but he came out and showed a lot of heart. That's what we need on this team."