Don't expect too much, too soon

It was a perfect ending to a less than perfect time. Jawann McClellan came off the bench to spark the Wildcats to a 87-80 win over a pesky Oregon State team. In his first game back, the sophomore scored 21 points to help the Wildcats overcome a 10-point halftime deficit.

McClellan was an astounding 7-8 from the field, including a perfect 3-3 from behind the arc. After each made basket the young Wildcat gestured to the air in tribute to his father who passed away over the summer.

McClellan was the perfect boost to a Wildcat team that came out sluggish against the Beavers. The Beavers opened the game with an 18-8 run and held a lead until the 12:00 mark of the second half.

McClellan entered the game at the 7:57 mark of the first half but did not take a shot in his first stint on the floor. He came back into the contest in the final minute of the first half and drained a three as the half expired…

Obviously this did not happen, but it is exactly what many Wildcat fans are expecting. Many Wildcat fans expect McClellan to become the savior of the season, the final piece to a championship puzzle.

While McClellan should benefit the team before it is all said and done, fans should not be disappointed if the sophomore does not have an instant impact.

There are a number of question marks surrounding McClellan. First and foremost is the fact that he has not played a real, competitive basketball game since the Elite Eight loss against Illinois. Pick-up games and practices just aren't a substitute for the real thing. There is no telling just how McClellan's endurance will be.

Another factor in his endurance is the fact that McClellan was sidelined off and on with a leg injury since the spring. Although he has been cleared to play medically, there is just no telling how the injury will react to his first bit of game action. While the prognosis is that he will be just fine, there is no guarantee that he will feel no effects from the injury.

The hardest thing to gauge is his mental health. It has been a challenging six months for McClellan. First and foremost he has had to deal with the sudden death of his father. McClellan was especially close with his father, which made his passing even tougher on McClellan.

If that was not enough, McClellan also had to deal with Hurricane Rita and a former high school teammate being charged with murder back in Houston. If that was not enough he has had to have his academic difficulties made public. He was not only ineligible, but had two appeals denied and had to succeed at an additional winter session to regain his eligibility. All of that while also having Lute Olson suspend him for a week last semester when McClellan was again slipping in the classroom.

That is a lot for anyone to deal with, much less a college sophomore. And it is even tougher for a young man who has the eyes of an entire college basketball fan base upon him.

Of course, McClellan could very well blow up and be the spark the Wildcats want him to be. Recent history is actually on the side of this. One player who went through similar academic woes was Miles Simon. Simon, now a Wildcat assistant coach, missed the first semester of the 1997-98 season. Simon's first game back was a January 12th match-up against ASU. Simon came off the bench, played 24 minutes, scored 18 points and dished out seven assists.

The next game he scored 13 and on Jan 18th against UCLA he scored 23 points in a loss to UCLA. Three months later he was the MVP of the NCAA Tournament and the Wildcats won their first national championship.

McClellan will be hard pressed to match Simon's run, but he should be a great addition to a team that needs a shooter, intensity and a little more basketball IQ. McClellan will add all of those things, just don't expect him to do so all at once.

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