McClellan: "We are going to get better!"

For many California high school students, leaving the Golden State for college is absolutely out of the question because of how much one leaves behind. For Darshawn McClellan, a freshman forward out of Fresno's Edison High School, a Vanderbilt education was just too much to pass up. "I always wanted to get my degree from college," he says, "and I felt that...

...Vanderbilt could give me the best opportunity with that and basketball."

McClellan acknowledges that it can be hard missing out on some of the advantages that California has to offer, including having access to places such as In-N-Out Burger, an immensely popular fast food chain that is found only in California and sparingly in Arizona and Nevada. Laughing, he says, "I definitely miss the food, no doubt about that, and I definitely miss the weather. The weather here is so crazy, so much different than in California."

But as much as he thinks he might have given up to come to Vanderbilt, McClellan has brought even more with him in terms of his play for the Black and Gold. He has already made a name for himself on the hardwood, quickly becoming a solid contributor off the bench for the Commodores and earning more and more quality minutes as the team is in the thick of SEC play. Coach Kevin Stallings attributes his increase in minutes to the fact that "Darshawn has played better since we got into league play, and he plays with a high motor and a high degree of competitiveness. He rebounds the ball well, he runs the floor well, he defends well, and he's just an all-around good player. He has done a lot of things well and that's why he's playing more."

However, while McClellan has been making giant strides in terms of his own play on the court, the team as a whole has struggled, losing their last four conference road games. But that is not to say that it is time to panic. "Right now I just think we need to stay together," he says. "Everything else will play itself out."

As one of six true freshmen on this team, McClellan is confident in the abilities of his fellow newcomers, saying, "I feel that the freshmen can come in and make just as much of an impact as the other guys. We worked just as hard as them over the summer so we're ready just like they are." His faith in his teammates is unwavering, and he is more than comfortable with splitting playing time with them. "I can still help my teammates," he asserts, "by supporting them on the bench."

McClellan admits that it has been hard in recent weeks dropping tough games in opposing SEC gyms, and that "it's just seeing my team not fight back when we get down. We work too hard in practice to let that happen to us on the road." But he is confident about the rest of the season, and says, "we're going to get better at it, so we've just got to keep working."

With a home game against Auburn looming on Saturday, McClellan knows just how important it is to get back on the winning track. But at the same time, he understands that there is more to life than just winning. "It's a blessing to be playing in the SEC," he says, "and I'm happy every time we step out there. I know that my teammates are too. It's just that sometimes things don't go our way, so we've just got to work on that."


Photo by Stan Jones.

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