Taking it in stride

Joe McLean is not the most outspoken member of the UA menÕs basketball team. He is not the highest scorer, heÕs not the most ferocious rebounder Ñ heÕs not even the craftiest assist man. He is, however, versatile.

And thatÕs just fine with him. McLean is not one to make waves, and his demeanor shows it. He considers himself a guard, but he plays a position usually reserved for forwards. HeÕs battling for a starting job, but says starting isnÕt really important to him.

ÒIÕm pretty sure IÕm not going to get to play as much at the two-spot as I would like, but I see myself as more of a guard, shooting on the outside,Ó McLean said. ÒStartingÕs not a big deal. I think itÕs just people can start and only play 15 minutes and guys can come off the bench and play 25, so IÕd rather play more minutes if I wasnÕt going to start.Ó

HeÕs got a point. In the one game McLean started, against Baylor in last seasonÕs opener, he played 14 minutes Ñ not bad, considering he averaged under 10 minutes a game for the year. While coming off the bench, however, he still ended up seeing more playing time in six other games.

But, of course, the quality of his play is more important than his playing time, and the knock on McLean is heÕs a streaky shooter.

ÒIf Joe McLean gets hot, he can put down five in a row very quickly,Ó Coach Lute Olson said.

But it goes both ways, and thatÕs something McLean has had to deal with.

ÒWith the inconsistency that I had last year, IÕm shooting the ball fairly well right now, and itÕs improving day to day,Ó McLean said. Ò(I need to) take the shots when they come to me and not try to force anything. A lot of times, if I wasnÕt shooting like I wanted to, IÕd get frustrated and try to push the issue. Now I just take it as it comes to me, and just try to play smarter.Ó

Said point guard Damon Stoudamire: ÒWith Joe, I think itÕs just a matter of confidence. He relies so much on his shooting that when he goes through those slumps he kind of gets down on himself. If he can just stay out of those slumps and do the things that he needs to do, I think that Joe can help us out.Ó

Early in the offseason, a broken foot forced McLean to take some time off. Shooting was therefore out of the question, but the weight room wasnÕt. The injury helped him add an extra 15 pounds to his 6-foot-6 1/2, 217-pound frame, as well as helping him mentally.

ÒI was out for a month-and-a-half, two months with the ankle,Ó McLean said. ÒIt was hard to really do anything skill-wise, but it helped me get a lot stronger and just get a better outlook on the game. I think thatÕs one of my biggest improvements.Ó

Being a student-athlete at a big-time basketball school is never easy, but just like his basketball game, McLean takes everything in stride. He deals with the pressure of the media scrutiny by simply avoiding the media altogether.

ÒI really donÕt read any of the papers or listen to any of the other things because sometimes you just get frustrated,Ó McLean said. ÒPressure-wise, IÕd rather have this on my shoulders than being unrecognized and not being ranked, so it goes along with the territory.Ó

His family does their best to try to see him play, and the recent trip to Michigan provided his brothers a perfect opportunity to see their sibling in action. The rigor of the basketball season doesnÕt provide him with much of an opportunity to see his family otherwise Ñ the team never gets to go home for Thanksgiving, and spent the recent holiday in Alaska Ñ but then again, McLean doesnÕt really mind.

ÒI think itÕs fun,Ó McLean said. ÒHow many times do you get to go Alaska and stuff like that? I think itÕs a lot of fun. The traveling part of it sucks, but once you get there itÕs pretty fun.Ó

And what about life after college? Well, McLean will take it as it comes, of course.

ÒIÕd like to play basketball as long as possible. IÕve got other options, my degree and stuff, but IÕd like to play as long as I can.Ó

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