Senior calls first 3 years 'disappointment,' but has no regrets

By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

With his 13-point, four-rebound game against Georgetown in the finals of the Preseason National Invitation Tournament, you could say Joe McLean made it in New York City.

And if he can make it there ... well, you know. McLean certainly hopes he'll be able to duplicate that performance anywhere.

The effort of the 6-foot-6, 217-pound guard/forward has never been questioned, but over the last three years his game just never fell into place, just never got into rhythm. He has had his moments a 3-pointer in the final minute of the second overtime against Washington State to cap a 114-111 win last season, another trey to give Arizona the lead for good late against Stanford last January. More often than not, however, it has been the case of McLean getting close, but never putting it together.

"I can say it's been a disappointment, these first three years," McLean said. "But I want to make this final year my last hurrah, to make it exciting and make it count."

In the last three years, McLean has been a 36 percent shooter from the field and averaged 32 percent from 3-point territory. To listen to McLean and head coach Lute Olson discuss the senior's problems putting the ball in the basket is an introduction to the mind of a shooter.

Olson said the one thing standing between McLean and consistent offensive production is a new attitude about shooting the ball.

"Sometimes Joe is his own worst enemy," Olson said. "He's such a conscientious young man that when he misses an open shot he gets upset with himself. Sometimes he's in too much of a rush to take the next shot to make up for the miss, and he doesn't take shots he should take.

"Shooters will look at it this way: If they miss a shot, they almost look at it like, 'Great, I got the miss out of the way.' But (with) Joe, we've had to battle with that. We tell him, 'Hey, if you got the shot, shoot the shot. If it goes, it goes. If it doesn't go, you keep shooting and things will take care of themselves.'

"Shooters shoot the ball, they don't think about shooting the ball. That's where he's got to get to."

McLean would disagree with being called a shooter. He said he thinks he was labeled a shooter unfairly coming out of high school because he had a good percentage from the field. He said he sees himself as more versatile than that, and feels he is more of a slasher than a pure shooter.

But shooter or not, McLean would agree that his mindset could be better. With a limited amount of minutes each game, McLean could expect only a handful of shots each night. In the past, he found himself getting bogged down thinking about his percentage and letting that affect his game.

"It's been hard because I haven't gotten the minutes, so I kind of want to be selective," he said. "In the past, when I play six or seven minutes, I miss one shot, then I'm 1-for-3, 0-for-2. Then it starts snowballing and all of a sudden the percentages are bad and then I look down on myself."

Olson said he hopes McLean's play against the Hoyas, and the team-leading 16 points he had Tuesday against Marathon, could signal the beginning of new-found confidence for the senior.

"The more success he has in a game, the more likely it is that the success will continue," Olson said. "I would hope the success would carry over for him."

In the Georgetown game, McLean found himself in a position to play substantial minutes (28) because of forward Michael Dickerson's ankle injury. Knowing he'd be in the game for awhile seemed to have a settling effect on his game, as he finished 4 for 7 from the field, including 3 for 3 from 3-point range.

"That was my best game, because of where we played and who we played," McLean said. "In the Georgetown game, I knew I would get the shots, but even if I don't know I'm going to get the shots I'm going to keep taking them and be more confident."

His teammates recognize the importance of McLean playing with confidence.

"Michael went down and that was a bit of an emotional step down," senior guard Reggie Geary said, "but Joe came in and said he was going to take over right then, and then hit the three 3s. It was great to see him step up. It will be great for his confidence."

"He stepped up big time," Miles Simon said. "He saw his opportunity when Mike went down, saw we needed another scorer, and he came in right away and played with confidence."

McLean arrived at Arizona in the recruting class with Geary, center Joseph Blair and forward Corey Williams. He starred at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., where he averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game. He was also an honorable mention All-American pick by USA TODAY.

Coming from that to averaging 3.7 points per game in his career as a Wildcat has been frustrating, he said.

"You come into every season with great expectations of yourself," he said. "You set such high goals, and going throught high school you achieve every goal you set. Then when you get to a big organization like Arizona, it can be difficult."

With his limited playing time, McLean admits to sometimes pressing himself to make the most of those minutes, which has led to mistakes. The solution for him is simple: more minutes. But McLean is not likely to receive more than the 14 minutes a game he now averages, and even that number is inflated because of Dickerson's injury.

"The way we've looked at it was that Joe would be playing at the wing spot to let Michael move to the two spot to relieve Miles," Olson said. "There will be a certain amount of time available to him."

While things have not gone his way to this point in his career at Arizona, McLean said he has no regrets about his decision to become a Wildcat.

"It's a question you always look back on," McLean said. "But even though I've played and haven't had the things go the way I've wanted to the last three years, Arizona's an unbelievable place to play. I went to a Final Four, and not many people can say they've done that.

"I don't think I can see myself doing it any other way. I'm never going to have any regrets."

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