McClellan taking leadership role seriously

Jawann McClellan sat in the locker room after the NCAA Tournament loss to Purdue and was disgusted. He was mad at his team, mad at himself and even mad a fate. A promising start to the season was erased by a limp to the finish. A loss to the less talented Boilermakers had McClellan vowing that things would change.

McClellan was not the only one with similar thoughts. He and fellow wing Chase Budinger were the most vocal. That day he promised he'd be the leader. He promised that things would change.

So far McClellan has lived up to that promise. He struggled at the end of the season, not only losing his starting job but being a spot player in many games. His surgically repaired knees were just too limiting and he went from being an All-Conference candidate in January, to riding the pine for much of March.

Now McClellan is leaner and the legs feel great.

"I look a whole lot better than I did during the year," McClellan explained. "My first step is back. It is just going to take time. Plus my weight is down and that helps."

Many felt that McClellan played too many minutes early in the year. Considering he could not play during the Canada trip, some wondered if he should have been playing over 30 minutes a game in December. McClellan is not about to use playing time as an excuse.

"As a competitor and a player, especially trying to win a national championship and as an individual who wants to play at the next level, you want to play as many minutes as you can," he explained. "That is up to the coaches though."

McClellan does look leaner. He still has muscle tone, but is at his high school playing weight. He's not the only one. A number of players have transformed their physiques since the end of the year.

"All of us are stronger and faster out there," McClellan said. "We're more explosive. It's a great compliment to our strength coaches."

The Houston native has not backed off his claims that he wants to be a leader, if not the leader of the team. Because of this he has spent more time than usual in Tucson.

The team has been going through three-a-day workouts and McClellan has tried to lead by example.

Just staying on them everyday," McClellan said of how his leadership skills have best been utilized. "Making sure everyone is on the same page and everybody wants to get better. Everybody seems that they do, so it makes it easier to do my job as the leader."

Part of that leadership role has been to be there for the new players. Freshman wing Zane Johnson praised McClellan's leadership and McClellan had similar praise for the newcomers.

"They look good, everybody's playing very well," McClellan noted.

Another key newcomer has been new assistant coach Kevin O'Neil. O'Neil has made a great impression on McClellan.

"Great addition, great guy," said McClellan. "Love him like a father and that is what we need."

His NBA ties are also an appeal. McClellan is aware of O'Neil's pedigree and that the coach can be a boost to getting into the league.

"He knows what it takes," McClellan said. "He let's us know every day. It's hard right now, but it will pay off in the end."

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