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McClellan shines in sixth-man role

By Brett Fera
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Saturday, March 12, 2005

LOS ANGELES - Two games, two blowouts and more than two prime-time scoring options as the top-seeded Arizona men's basketball team heads into Saturday's Pacific 10 Tournament championship game, and prepares for the start of NCAA tournament play next weekend.

Freshman wing Jawann McClellan - with the size and agility of a slimy two-guard and the tenacity of a strong small forward - made his mark for the second straight day for the Wildcats, scoring 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting during Arizona's 90-59 semifinal victory over Oregon State Friday in Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Shooting .750 from the floor and .800 during tournament play, while averaging 14.5 points over the first two rounds, the 6-foot-4 McClellan has almost certainly snagged the coveted UA sixth man spot from junior Chris Rodgers heading into NCAA play.

But more importantly, McClellan gives the Wildcats yet another scoring option to go with the Wildcats big three on offense - Frye, Stoudamire and oft-forgotten do-it-all Hassan Adams.

"You can see how they're having to play Salim," head coach Lute Olson said after the team's second straight win by 25 or more points. Olson then went into an Xs and Os breakdown of how teams can't manage to cover both the sharp-shooting Stoudamire and the 6-foot-11 Frye simultaneously, without forgetting about another of Arizona's multiple offensive weapons.

Stoudamire, Frye and Adams may have tri-handedly scored the Wildcats' first 20 points - Frye scored seven, Stoudamire eight, Adams seven of his own - to give Arizona an early eight-point lead.

But after the Beavers cut their deficit to as few as three late in the first half, it was the all-around play of McClellan - he created shots, crashed the boards and seems to have settled into his role as a ready-for-prime-time player - that allowed the Wildcats to break open the game.

"Jawann's a player. He's a big game player," Olson said. "I think Jawann McClellan will be, next year, if not the best sophomore in the league very close to it."

Olson may think Jawann's time to shine has yet to come, but to McClellan, that newcomer status is long gone.

"Everybody needs to step up," McClellan said. "I consider myself no longer a freshman. It's tournament time and coach Olson has put a lot of confidence in me."

So much so that McClellan's playing time over the first two Pac-10 games has been equal to starting forward Ivan Radenovic, and greater than any other UA bench player.

"The thing is he's so quick to the boards," Olson added. "Without a doubt right now he's our best offensive rebounder, for the number of minutes that he's getting in there. He goes for everything .He anticipates."

Olson's right. McClellan five offensive boards through two tournament games is second to nobody, if only tied for the team lead with Frye.

McClellan said he's happy to be playing more minutes now, but doesn't blame his coach for not giving him more floor time earlier in the season.

"You know when you make a mistake you're not coming out right away," McClellan said of the advantages of being able to play enough to get into a groove. "I played a lot at the very beginning of the season until we got all the way to conference and I think he just had to go with experience."

With one game to go before Selection Sunday hits, when the Wildcats learn whether they'll likely earn anywhere from a one to a three seed in the NCAA tournament, McClellan has already learned something away from the court from his head coach: how to refer to the team's "lack of respect" among the nation's elite teams.

"We'll try to get the pony express going to get the word out east that we played well," Olson quipped.

"We have a chip on our back, McClellan added, following Olson's lead. "People haven't shown us respect all year."

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