Clinkscales Gets His Shot

You might think that DePaul Blue Demons point guard Cliff Clinkscales had to adjust to a new head men's basketball coach when Jerry Wainwright was hired in April, following the departure of Dave Leitao. But, to Clinkscales, Wainwright was no stranger. Clinkscales had visited his best friend Daon Merritt at Richmond, Virginia during the summer of 2004. While there, he worked Wainwright's basketball camp as a counselor and got to know the Richmond coach.

Clinkscales became familiar with Wainwright. "From day one, everybody loved the coach," said Cliff. "He welcomed everybody with open arms. He's a great guy. He's got a great personality. He likes to laugh and joke a lot."

Since the DePaul sophomore already knew Wainwright, his next challenge was learning the coach's system and what he expects of his team. "Everybody has to know every position on the floor," observed Clinkscales. "I'm not just a point guard. Everybody's got more confidence. We're not worried about offense. Everything is defense right now. Everybody's just working hard on their defense, taking charges, being scrappy. Have great ball pressure. Everybody's working hard. Everything else is irrelevant right now, we're just working on our defense."

When talking to Cliff, the conversation eventually turns to perimeter shooting. Clinkscales struggled with a .048 three-point shooting percentage last season. However, some coaches have the philosophy that an offense can begin with a missed shot. They look upon a miss as an opportunity to get an even higher percentage shot. "In this system, I'm the floor general," declared Cliff. "(Coach) is always telling me to look for my shot more. We've got good offensive rebounders now. When you take a shot it helps us, when you don't take a shot it might hurt. I think my shot has improved tremendously from last year to this year. I've been working on my shot every day."

With DePaul junior Sammy Mejia moving off the ball this season, Clinkscales role at the point guard position becomes even more critical to the team's success. Cliff understands his role and what is being expected of him by Wainwright. "He expects me to be a leader every day," said Cliff. "I can't take any breaks. He wants me upbeat and positive. He really talked to me about my body language. You have to have great body language. That means a lot. Always stay positive. Not only me but, the whole team - think positive."

True to his word, Cliff is positive about the team's chances as they move to the Big East conference this season. "Everybody likes each other," Clinkscales remarked. "We're a unit this year. The freshmen have been good. Everybody has been real good. A lot of people have been counting us out. We're going to be real good this year. We're going to surprise a lot of people. We're young, but, we're not making any excuses."

No excuses fits right in with Wainwright's mantra for the coming season – "The time is now."

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