A self-described late bloomer, McClinton has become a first-team all-ACCer.
Nov. 15 Florida Southern Nov. 21-24 Southern Mississippi* Nov. 29 Stetson Dec. 2 Ohio State** Dec. 6 at Kentucky Dec. 12 Florida International Dec. 14 Robert Morris Dec. 27 at St. John's Dec. 31 North Florida Jan. 3 North Carolina Central Jan. 5 Florida Atlantic *Paradise Jam, in U.S. Virgin Islands (also Connecticut, La Salle, Iona, San Diego, Valparaiso, Wisconsin)
In a slate larded with just about every cupcake in the state of Florida, and a travel budget that could be paid out of petty cash, the undersized Hurricanes will get a real test against the Buckeyes and their 7-foot freshman center, B.J. Mullens.
Coach: Frank Haith (5th) 2007-08 record: 23-11 ACC record: 8-8 (T-5th) NCAA tournament: Second round
Thanks to a star guard, the Hurricanes have moved up a category in intensity
Speaking to a reporter at Hurricanes Hoopfest -- Miami's relatively subduedseason-kickoff event, attended by 150 fans -- senior guard Jack McClinton said,"Everyone has one common goal, and that's to win a national championship." Itwasn't exactly a guarantee, but it still made headlines (mcclinton talks ofnational title, said TheMiami Herald) because in these parts,after all, the average fan understands the nuances of the BCS more than theMadness of Midnight or March.
A national championship in basketball? That would have been crazy talka year ago, when Miami was picked to finish last in a preseason ACC poll.Instead, the Hurricanes went 23-11 and advanced to the second round of the NCAAtournament. Now four starters are back, including McClinton, Miami's firstAll-ACC first-teamer, and discussion of a deep tournament run isn't sofar-fetched.
McClinton, a self-described late bloomer growing up in Baltimore, didn'tstart at Calvert Hall High until he was a senior. And it wasn't until heaveraged 18.4 points per game during a postgraduate year at the South Kent(Conn.) School that he received his first Division I scholarship offer,from Siena.
After his freshman year at Siena, however, his coach was fired, andMcClinton, who averaged 13.6 points and 2.7 assists, decided to transfer. Hisfather, Jack, sent Hurricanes coach Frank Haith a highlight tape of his son'sexploits ("Jack didn't miss a shot," the coach said with a laugh last March),and Haith was impressed enough to offer McClinton a scholarship.
During McClinton's redshirt year Haith would sometimes call his cellphone onSaturday nights when the team was on the road. Invariably Haith would reach hisyoung guard in the gym, working out by himself and proving that the mottotattooed on his left arm, no pain, no fame, was more than just ink.
That work paid off last season, when McClinton led the ACC in free throwshooting (91.9%) and was second in three-point accuracy (42.7%). "He'll put inthe time," Haith says, "almost to the point where I have to say, 'Jack, you haveto get out of the gym.' He's as hard a worker as anyone I've ever beenaround."
Shortly after Haith installed Lance Hurdle at the point alongside McClintonand James Dews, the offense began to click. The Hurricanes won six of seven,including an upset of No. 5 Duke. Dews is one of five returnees who shot atleast 37% from beyond the arc for the ACC's top three-point-shooting team.
Though a national title still seems out of reach, it marks a sea change inthe program's culture that such a pursuit has become a realistic goal. "Jack'sright," says Dews. "If we keep playing hard and playing together, the sky's thelimit." -- Joe Lemire
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