Akron University sophomore Brett McClanahan doesnt say hes a starter, even if he has been one of the first five players on the floor for four of the Zips six basketball games this season. I guess you could say Im starting, but if you know Coach D (Akron head Coach Keith Dambrot), you cant say anybody is starting, said the former Nitro High School star. He didnt have a starting five last year until the last quarter of the season. Hes looking for the five thats grooving together. Starting or not, the 6-foot-4 McClanahan has found life as a Division I basketball player to his liking. Especially for a program whose coach is in his sixth season and has won 20 or more games four consecutive years. The last Akron coach to do that was Bob Huggins, who won at least 20 each season from 1985- 89. After a sparkling, yet unstable, high school career, McClanahan averaged 13 minutes in 21 of Akrons 36 games last year, which includes six minutes in the Zips first-round NCAA Tournament defeat to No. 4-seeded Gonzaga. Even if I didnt play at all, it was special, the Akron wing said. I think there were 12,000 people at the Trail Blazers arena (Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.). This season, hes averaging 19.7 minutes, 5.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in six games, with his best performance coming in a 69-52 victory over Howard in which he had 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 26 minutes as a starter. Akron is 4-0 since opening with back-to-back defeats. On Friday, the Zips visit Texas A&M. They dont open the Mid-American Conference season until Jan. 9 when the Zips host Bowling Green. McClanahan doesnt bother wondering about his starting status. He has found comfort in knowing hes on sound footing after a four-year prep career that included three coaches marred by controversy, endless rumors about the possibility of his transferring and a senior campaign in basketball, football and baseball which made him wonder why he wasnt a three-sport athlete all the way through. In four seasons under coaches Gary Greene, Dean Lee and Jeff Null, McClanahan scored 1,855 points with 290 3- pointers and earned first-team All-State honors as a junior and senior. However, McClanahans career was muddled with uncertainty. I think I did the right thing by staying at Nitro, McClanahan said. Thats where my friends were. Most of his friends were on the baseball team, and although he was the teams biggest fan, he spent only one season with them. For Coach Steve Pritchards 2008 state championship Nitro baseball team, he batted .411 with 11 doubles, four home runs and 34 RBI and was 3-for-3 with a double and triple in the title game, giving him his only high school title. As a senior for Coach Scott Tinsleys football team, he caught 66 passes for 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns and earned second team All-State honors. I think its more camaraderie, McClanahan said. A lot of guys on the baseball team were my friends. Those were people I was close to. I was named after Nolan Ryan (Ryan is McClanahans middle name) and George Brett, but thats not where my heart was. My regret was missing the camaraderie. His heart was in a sport on a team that had finished with one win when McClanahan was in the eighth grade. Greene took over, but resigned 15 games into McClanahans freshman season, citing a lack of support from the administration. Im not second-guessing anybodys decisions, McClanahan said. Gary Greene did what he had to do. I struggled last year (at Akron) and didnt buy into the program with Coach D. To be honest, I think some of it had to do with the lack of stability at Nitro. I didnt trust the coach. They werent there for the long haul. Well, that and his defense. He quickly learned that technique, as much as his range and effort, would get him on the floor. Im starting to play harder now. My defensive positioning was horrible, McClanahan said. Ive improved leaps and bounds on defense. In high school you can get by with effort, but you have to be sound in college. One year after battling homesickness he stays at school during Thanksgiving break and practices on Thanksgiving Day and living in the dorms, he shares an apartment with four teammates, which he calls his collective family. He has classes four nights a week and practices daily from 8 a.m.- noon. Its more of job for McClanahan, but one that hell never take for granted. Not very many people get to play college sports, period, let alone Division I, McClanahan said. I just want to work hard and take advantage of it. In the grand scheme of things, its only four years out of my life. I dont know what the average lifespan is, but its only four years and then its over."Contact assistant sports editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.
Former Nitro Star has Found Stability
Gentlemen of the courtA look at Kanawha Valley high s...